The pre-poll bargaining in Bihar | HT Editorial
The Opposition’s weakness continues to give Nitish Kumar an edgeUpdated: Jul 06, 2020 19:20 IST
Political bargaining for the Bihar election, scheduled for the end of the year, has picked up in both the ruling and Opposition camps. Within the Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) combine, the Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP has been critical of the Bihar government and hinted it will not accept Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance. Mr Paswan has an interesting position in the combine. He is the weakest of the three players, but he brings in an important segment of Dalit votes. The BJP and JD(U)’s calculation that he will be a greater threat outside the alliance drives up his bargaining power, which is being leveraged by his son, Chirag. But all actors realise that this is pre-poll posturing for a better seat-sharing arrangement. The real contradiction in the alliance — between the JD(U) and BJP over leadership — has been resolved. The LJP will eventually come along.
It is the contradiction in the opposition which is of greater import. The Bihar leadership of the Congress as well as smaller parties are resistant to the idea of projecting Tejashwi Yadav, the current leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), as the chief ministerial face. There is an element of power play here too, for all these parties want a better seat-sharing deal. They are right in pointing to the limitations of Mr Yadav, who hasn’t displayed his father’s charisma or mass connect. But the fact is that the RJD remains the only opposition party with a substantial vote base of Muslims and Yadavs, and there is no likelihood of the Yadav family giving up its leadership claims. This combination of a weak CM face, an insufficient vote base, and warring parties within the Opposition gives Nitish Kumar a clear edge.