Patna, Oct 1 (IANS): Given the BJP’s dismal performance in the southern states of the country, its top leadership is eyeing the Hindi heartland states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand to make some inroads and retain the government at the Centre.
Bihar is crucial for the saffron party as it has 40 seats and has tough political opponents like the RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav and the JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar. As a result, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has visited Bihar five times since the formation of the Mahagathbandhan government for political rallies.
Bihar BJP president Samrat Chaudhary admits that Lalu Prasad Yadav has a vote bank but is also aware that Nitish Kumar does not have the same.
The RJD has its own vote bank but Nitish Kumar does not. Hence, the NDAcandidates will win all 40 Lok Sabha seats and Narendra Modi will be the Prime Minister for the third time,” Chaudhary said.
The BJP’s think tank knows that a battle with Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar is not easy. After the 2020 Assembly election the RJD is by and large holding the same position as it was in 2015 but the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) is on the wane. In 2015, the JD(U) had 69 MLAs and it was reduced to 43 in the 2020 Assembly election.
Politics is all about perception, and the BJP knows that Nitish Kumar is strong on the ground and his core voters Lav-Kush (Kurmi-Kushwaha) perceive him as such. However, if the perception of voters changes towards Nitish Kumar, the chances are that his core voter base which consists of OBCs may shift towards the BJP.
Hence, BJP leaders are tactically targeting Nitish Kumar and creating a perception that he is weakening on the ground and the 2020 Assembly election is an example of it.
As Lav-Kush voters are hardcore opponents of the Yadav community, the BJP is looking to cash in on that.
The BJP made Samrat Chaudhary its state president to send a message to the Kushwaha community that it has a representation in the party.
Upendra Kushwaha separating from the JD(U) and becoming an alliance partner of the BJP was also a ploy to send a message to voters that Nitish Kumar was weakening and backing him was just a waste of their votes.
The BJP has poached many leaders of the JD(U) in the last one year. RCP Singh, Meena Singh, Upendra Kushwaha, Professor Ranbir Nandan, Monazir Hasan to name a few and its efforts to damage the JD(U) are continuing.
Upendra Kushwaha, who met Amit Shah on Thursday said, “We met Amit Shah in New Delhi and discussed how to win the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar. At present, Nitish Kumar and the JD(U) are not a factor in Bihar. The RJD is the biggest factor in Bihar and the NDA is making a strategy to deal with it.”
“I feel sad for Nitish Kumar. The JD(U)’s national president Lalan Singh is working for the RJD. He is not working in the interest of Nitish Kumar but is thinking of the RJD,” Kushwaha said.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP joined hands with the JD(U) and the combine won 39 out of 40 seats. The BJP won 17 seats, the JD(U) 16 and the LJP led by Ram Vilas Paswan got six seats. After the JD(U) broke away the NDA still had 23 seats.
However, the fact is that Nitish Kumar may look weak but he is still in the driver’s seat in Bihar and is holding the reins of governance tightly. The government machinery of any state plays a crucial role during elections, especially in tight situations when the margin of votes between the winning and losing party is narrow. During the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, around 15 MLAs of the NDA had won by narrow margins. RJD candidate Shakti Singh Yadav has lost that poll by an incredibly thin margin of 12 votes.
In Bihar, four parties are in alliance with the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. This includes the Chirag Paswan-led LJPR, Pashupati Kumar Paras-led Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP), Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal (RLJD) and the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) (HAM-S).
These leaders represent a section of voters belonging to their own castes and communities but whether it transforms into votes is debatable. Moreover, how they move their voters in favour of the BJP is also questionable.
In Bihar, 16 per cent of the voters belong to the Dalit and Mahadalit communities and the BJP is eyeing this big chunk of votes through leaders like Chirag Paswan, Pashupati Kumar Paras and Jitan Ram Manjhi.
When it comes to Chirag Paswan, he is the most influential leader in the BJP’s basket in Bihar as he has the political legacy of his late father Ram Vilas Paswan, the great Dalit leader of the country. He represents the Dusadh (Paswan) caste in Bihar that constitutes six per cent voters across the state. Besides, other Dalit castes also support Chirag Paswan. He has proved his popularity during the by-polls of Mukama, Gopalganj and Kurhani when he turned out to be a crowd puller leader for the BJP and helped it in winning the Gopalganj seat.
In the Lok Sabha election of 2019, Ram Vilas Paswan was alive and contested on six seats. He had given 100 per cent results at that time and won all six seats. However, the political situation of 2019 was different as the Modi wave was still strong in the country, especially in the Hindi belt. The situation has now changed as the Narendra Modi government will be facing a huge anti-incumbency factor in 2024.
Also, till the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 Vidhan Sabha elections, the leaders of other parties did not know the BJP’s poll strategy of dividing the Opposition votes through “vote katwas.” Now, the Opposition leaders know the poll strategy of the BJP and hence they have forged the INDIA alliance.
Ever since Jitan Ram Manjhi came out of the Mahagathbandhan the BJP is eyeing the three per cent Mahadalit votes of the Musahar caste.
Upendra Kushwaha, is a prominent force in the Koiri community having around seven per cent voters in Bihar. Upendra Kushwaha was a professor of political science and used to go by the name of Upendra Singh. Following Nitish Kumar’s suggestion he picked the Kushwaha name to become the natural representative of the Kushwaha community.
Overall, the track record of Chirag Paswan, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Pashupati Kumar Paras and Upendra Kushwaha is such that when their leading partners do well, they also perform well. In the 2014, 2019 and 2020 Assembly elections, the BJP was in the driver's seat and it had pulled the ships of Ram Vilas Paswan, Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi.
It will be interesting to see how they will help the BJP in 2024 especially when their opponent is INDIA and in Bihar, it has an alliance of six parties.