Nitish’s NDA leap impacts U.P.’s electoral chessboard - Hindustan Times

Nitish’s NDA leap impacts U.P.’s electoral chessboard

By, Lucknow
Jan 29, 2024 05:16 AM IST

The Bihar CM not only laid the foundation of the INDIA bloc, but he also worked to unite them on a single platform across the country

Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar parting ways with the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) to rejoin the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has come as a blow to opposition alliance in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. (HT file photo)
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. (HT file photo)

Kumar not only laid the foundation of the INDIA bloc, but he also worked to unite them on a single platform across the country to hold meeting with leaders of different political parties, convincing them to join hands to check BJP from retaining power in the Lok Sabha election. The first meeting of the opposition alliance was held in Patna, setting the momentum for 28 opposition parties joining the alliance.

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“We welcome Nitish Ji in the NDA and now whatever little that was left of the opposition alliance is blown apart. Whether Bihar or Bengal or UP or anywhere else, the opposition is gasping and that is why I have always said that there is no contest in 2024 as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only charismatic leader capable of taking the country forward and people know this,” said Uttar Pradesh deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya.

The caste census conducted by Nitish Kumar in Bihar had set the ground for the INDIA bloc to target the NDA. To mobilise the Other Backward Classes (OBC) against the NDA, the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal raised the caste census demand in Uttar Pradesh.

To break the hold of the BJP over Kurmi voters, the opposition alliance had plans to field Nitish Kumar from either of the three seats--Phulpur, Mirzapur and Ambedkar Nagar in UP as these three seats have strong OBC presence.

Though JD (U) in Uttar Pradesh is insignificant, the opposition leaders felt that Nitish Kumar’s charisma and influence over the backward community would help.

“The Kurmi community vote (7.50%) is decisive in over two dozen Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. Maurya, Kushwaha, Shakya and Saini (7%) are those OBCs that share a caste bond with Kurmis. In Bihar, these communities are considered support base of the JD (U).

“Had Nitish been with opposition alliance, then along with Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary the rainbow alliance of Yadav- Kurmi-Jat-Muslim would have challenged the BJP in the election,” said an SP leader.

In U.P., the BJP had won 62 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, mobilising the non- Yadav backward community. The SP has hold over the Yadav and Muslim communities. “The Apna Dal (S) led by Anupriya Patel who enjoys influence over the Kurmi community voters won two seats as alliance partner of the NDA in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. With Nitish’s support, the opposition could have made inroads into the Kurmi and other non-Yadav backward caste voters,” the SP leader added.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had worked hard to knit the opposition alliance with Nitish Kumar, holding series of meetings with Kumar in Delhi to draft the strategy for the Lok Sabha election. They had even addressed a joint press conference in Lucknow to send a message of the alliance of the two top OBC leaders among the masses.

SP sources said Akhilesh tried to contact Kumar to convince him to stay in INDIA bloc after it became clear that the Bihar CM was set to part ways with the opposition and return to BJP-led-NDA.

On Saturday, Akhilesh had said he wanted the JD(U) chief to remain within the INDIA bloc. “Nitish Kumar took the initiative and formed the INDIA alliance. The Congress should have come forward to stop him from quitting the INDIA bloc,” he had said.

On Sunday, Nitish Kumar announced snapping ties with Rashtriya Janta Dal and ended the Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar after submitting his resignation to the Bihar governor. Shortly after, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav posted on X, that “a new record of betrayal has been made. The public will give a befitting reply to this. There can be no greater defeat than someone not believing in you as a person.” He also said the BJP was never as weak as it was now.

A BSP leader said party chief Mayawati was keeping a watch on the political development in Bihar as well as turbulence in INDIA bloc. The BSP had bagged one seat in 2020 Bihar assembly elections but post poll, party’s lone MLA Mohammad Jama Khan defected to the JD(U) and was made a minister. The BSP chief has already announced that her party will maintain equal distance from INDIA and NDA and will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha election on its own strength.

A faculty in Lucknow University, professor Ravi Kant said: “INDIA bloc was set to gain in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls with Nitish Kumar by their side. Nearly 7% Kurmi voters in UP could have swayed to INDIA bloc had Nitish remained with the opposition alliance. With Nitish joining the NDA, the Apna Dal (S) led by Union minister Anupriya Patel will now wield more influence on the Kurmi voters and the BJP will gain in the election. Nitish has a hold over the extremely backward community, and this too would help the BJP. The time is running out for the SP and the Congress to project Kurmi leader in U.P. to replace Nitish.”

Former head of political science department in Lucknow University, SK Dwivedi said: “With Nitish joining the NDA, the BJP is all set to gain in U.P., getting maximum OBC and Dalit votes in the election.”

Professor Manoj Dixit, vice chancellor of Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner, said: “Ahead of the polls, Ram temple has already provided momentum to BJP’s Hindutva agenda and is likely to neutralise the caste plank of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.”

“Now development has also become an election agenda in U.P. while Bihar still lags in development though the caste census issue provides fodder to the political parties in the election. The alliance with the JD (U) will assist the BJP in spreading its base in Bihar,” he added.

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