How will a potential BJP-Janata Dal (United) split affect the NDA and national politics as Lok Sabha polls draw close?
Clearly, it diminishes the NDA, leaving it with just two allies in Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal, making the magic figure of 272 a distant dream. But a BJP leader claimed: “We’re sure Modi’s charisma will lead to our seats going up impressively, and then allies will automatically flock.”
“If the split happens, Modi will be catapulted to being Prime Ministerial candidate sooner,” a central BJP leader said.
This could mean a personality-based polarising election: Consolidate BJP workers, enthuse Hindutva voters and pro-Modi sections of middle classes, but push Muslim votes firmly in the lap of the Congress. This is likely to benefit the Congress, mainly in UP and Bihar, where regional parties are also claimants of the Muslim vote.
Nitish Kumar has till now thrived on the BJP’s upper caste base — about 14 % — alongside his own caste of Kurmis — 3-4% — and extremely backward castes (EBCs) and MahaDalits (non-Paswan Dalits).
Aware that the Kurmis are a small caste, Kumar has sought to weave a discourse of Bihari pride, and the demand for special status for the state fits into this mould. He has also sought to create voter bases, such as women, that cut across caste. Besides, many credit Kumar with having improved law and order and roads.
But will this Bihari pride discourse help Kumar win on his own and decimate Lalu Prasad and the BJP, or will the BJP wean away upper castes and RJD and Congress the Muslims?
Director of Patna-based think tank AN Sinha institute of social studies DM Diwakar said: “I believe any split will hurt the BJP more as anything saffron has never fired the imagination of Bihar’s voting public.”
However, P K Sinha, a former confidant of Kumar and now his bitter critic, insisted JD (U) stood to lose more: “Nitish has never been in power without the backing of the BJP, be it his ministerial stints in the Vajpayee government or as chief minister since 2005.”