In Bihar, The BJP of 2015 is not the BJP of today. But challenges remain
The BJP should not be surprised by his move. However, the party quickly get its house in order and put its ear to the ground in the state.
Patna: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stumped by the swift turn of events in Bihar, is going all-out against what they describe as political opportunism by Nitish Kumar. Kumar has managed to retain his CM’s chair for the eighth time, despite switching over from one side to another at will and with elan - an art he seems to have mastered in the country's history.
While the popular line, “alliance is temporary, but Nitish Kumar is permanent,” is floating around on social media, the other side is seeing growing attacks against him for his shift. Videos clips are being posted as a reminder of what Kumar said in the past, after severing ties with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the BJP at regular intervals since 2013.
"In one stroke, friends have turned foes, and foes have turned friends. But that is Nitish Kumar for you: Ambitious, manoeuvring, and with sharp political acumen to be one up on an otherwise well-calculated BJP. He remained silent till he had to speak, and when he opened his mouth, the BJP was left cursing him for repeating 2013. The BJP should not be surprised, as this is not the first time Nitish Kumar has done this. Such things keep happening in politics to seize an advantage. They should have read it and if they couldn't, it is their fault. In Bihar, shortcuts to power don't last. At the national level, it is too early to say if the Nitish factor will have any impact," said social analyst Prof NK Choudhary.
Choudhary said that by continuing with Nitish Kumar, despite getting more seats within the party to have a BJP CM, the BJP reflected a lack of confidence in a state where the party does not have a leader. "This is what happens if one does not have self-confidence. Nitish felt he was made to suffer, and he did not forget it. It is BJP's sheer miscalculation, and they should accept it. They never tried to expand their organisation in Bihar, as they did in other states, just to keep Nitish in good stead. They will now have a real challenge at hand in 2024," he added.
Political analyst DM Diwakar said that in present-day politics, principles and ethics matter do not matter, and the BJP would gain nothing now from fuming at Nitish Kumar, who did what he is capable of for his advantage.
"The new RJD-JD(U) alliance has happened at a time when all the parties have got down to prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, leaving the BJP with very little time to gear up for the formidable challenge it faces. They should not lose sight of the 2015 state polls at the peak of the Modi wave, when the Grand Alliance made it a one-sided affair due to the simple electoral arithmetic that Bihar presents. The timing of this alliance means that it will at least last till 2024, and hoping against hope for it to crumble windiill not help BJP prospects," he added.
Diwakar said that home minister Amit Shah underestimated Nitish Kumar, who was looking for just the right opportunity since his party was dwarfed in the 2020 Assembly elections, and relegated to the third spot due to Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)'s Chirag Paswan. "Now it is not a question of how much Nitish gains. He has gained enough. Now the moot point is how much he would make the BJP pay, even if he has to lose a little more at the fag end of his career, spanning almost two decades. The BJP will do good to set its own house in order in the state. It failed to present a creditable leader to replace Nitish Kumar. Many leaders in the BJP must be also happy with what has happened, as they felt like being sidelined," he added.
However, BJP state chief Sanjay Jaiswal said that the BJP of 2022 should not be mistaken for the BJP of 2015 in the state. "Today, the state unit is more organised and has an effective presence at every booth. We don't have any worries for 2024. The BJP is a worker-based party and does not believe in one face. Nobody knew Yogi Adityanath or Manohar Lal Khattar would be CM, until they became one. But one thing is certain: The RJD will chuck Nitish Kumar sooner or later. He once dumped others for the sake of chair. Now, the time has come for him to be dumped," he added.
BJP national organisational secretary Rituraj Sinha said it was laughable that Nitish Kumar, driven solely by his personal ambition, was eyeing the PM's chair. "He should also vie for the President's chair in 2027. It is a fact that the BJP erred in trusting him, but for the party that has grown due to its committed workers. This is an opportunity, and they will take it as a challenge. The BJP backed him even in 2000 when Nitish Kumar's party had just 36 seats. This time the party backed him again, despite JD-U getting just 43 seats. But he is adept at playing with the trust of everyone. In politics, leadership requires credibility, which Nitish Kumar has completely lost and it is now the beginning of the end of JD-U. There is an old saying that in politics there are no permanent friends and enemies, the only permanent thing is interest. Nitish Kumar is a personification of this," he added.
Maintaining that Nitish Kumar's graph has been steadily on the decline - from 115 seats in state polls for JD-U in 2010 to 75 in 2015 and 43 in 2020 - he said that blaming others for one's failures and falling popularity would not help. "The JD(U) should be worried about how many of its 16 MPs, who won in 2019 as NDA candidates, will win without Narendra Modi. In Bihar, people voted for Modi's work in 2019, rising above caste and creed. Those who cannot think beyond caste live in 2015, but it is Modi's work, which has directly touched the lives of 20 crore Indian families, that will speak again. In 2015, Narendra Modi had spent just a year in office, but now he has a lot to show, and his popularity is only growing. What will Nitish Kumar tell nearly 65-lakh voters who voted for JD-U candidates as part of NDA?" he added.