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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Modi's next battle plan: BJP may topple govts in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand

Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times  New Delhi/Almora, May 01, 2014
First Published: 12:07 IST(1/5/2014) | Last Updated: 19:53 IST(1/5/2014)

As part of its psychological warfare strategy, the BJP is making it very clear that the Bihar, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand governments — already surviving on wafer-thin majorities — may be toppled after the election results are out.

But the riders are — and this is the operative part of the whole strategy — the party will be able to make the effort only if it comes to power at the Centre and does well in the Lok Sabha elections in these three states. BJP leaders, however, said on condition of anonymity that the fears of the state governments were baseless as there was no such plan.

In 2009, the BJP failed to get any of the five LS seats in Uttarakhand, won 12 of the 15 seats it contested in Bihar and eight of the 12 seats it contested in Jharkhand. This time, the party is expecting to sweep Uttarakhand, retain the number in Jharkhand and win 20 of the 40 seats in Bihar.

The Nitish Kumar government in Bihar is in power with the support of the Congress and some non-RJD MLAs, although the Congress has gone with Lalu Prasad’s RJD in the Lok Sabha elections.

JD-U leaders are jittery at the prospect of the Lok Sabha elections having a bearing on the stability of the Nitish Kumar government. While polling for 28 seats has been completed in the state, the remaining will go to the polls in the next two phases on May 7 and 12.

With poll surveys indicating a BJP-versus-RJD fight in Bihar, Nitish’s own men are questioning his decision to part ways with the saffron party. Kumar — with 117 JD-U MLAs — had won the trust vote with the help of four Congress MLAs, four Independents and a CPI legislator. In the 243-member assembly, the ruling alliance needs the support of at least 122 MLAs. 

Since then, Kumar has expelled five of his MLAs for ‘anti-party activities’ that took the alliance’s number below the majority figure. “The outcome of the national elections will have an impact on the state government,” Kumar admitted in a TV interview last week.

The assembly polls in Bihar are due in September-October next year but JD-U leaders fear that the BJP may prompt some “fence sitters”, who fear erosion in their social bases with the rise of Narendra Modi, to pull the plug on the Nitish government.

The Uttarakhand Congress is already trying to pre-empt the BJP move. “The BJP is saying our government will fall. But we’ll complete the term,” Uttarakhand Congress chief and minister Yashpal Arya said in Almora on Tuesday in the presence of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and chief minister Harish Rawat.

In the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly, the Congress has 32 MLAs — four short of the majority figure — and survives on the support of seven legislators of the Progressive Democratic Front, comprising the BSP, the UKD and Independents. The buzz is that the PDF MLAs can switch over to the BJP.

In Jharkhand, the Hemant Soren government of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is surviving by a majority of just one seat. In the 79-member assembly, the ruling coalition has 40 MLAs — including the speaker — while the opposition has 39.

(With inputs from Anupam Trivedi in Dehradun)


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