The loss to the Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition and the Congress gain in terms of vote share in the recent by-elections are seen as a “danger signal” by the BJP, whose leaders have recommended some “course correction” by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.“If we do not change the ways of the Bihar government, we could be facing an uphill task in the Assembly polls next year,” a party leader said. He pointed out that during the Lok Sabha elections there might have been a perception among the people in the State that the BJP and its allies were in the reckoning for forming a government at the Centre, but “now the voter’s consideration will be Bihar-centric.”
The divide and rule policy of the Nitish Kumar government by creating awareness of sub-castes and playing the ati pichda (most backward) and ‘mahadalit’ (Dalit among the Dalits) card backfired. The JD(U)-BJP alliance no longer enjoyed the trust of the Backward Castes and Dalits as a whole, who were going back to the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Jan Shakti Party, a BJP leader said, pointing to the RJD-LJP combine making a comeback and the Congress getting five per cent more vote share, almost the same as that lost by the ruling alliance.
It is no secret that at many levels BJP cadres are dissatisfied as the power-sharing arrangement is tilted heavily in favour of the JD(U), according to a senior leader. “The stark fact is that a BJP Minister or party functionary cannot get even an SHO [station house officer], let alone a Superintendent of Police, a district magistrate, a commissioner or a Secretary, posted or transferred. This is not what power-sharing should be.”
Some “weighty portfolios like Home should be with the BJP since the chief ministership is with the JD(U), as it was in Maharashtra, the senior leader said.
The BJP also feels that once the Congress gets the support of a “critical mass” of voters in the State, Muslims and upper castes would move away to that party in large numbers.
The Nitish Kumar government’s proposal on land reforms, consequent to the Mazumdar report, has been hanging as a sword of Damocles over the heads of upper castes. “The upper caste Bhumihars fear they would lose much of their land, and this is another reason they could desert the ruling alliance,” a BJP leader said.
At the time of the Lok Sabha elections, there were some lone voices in the BJP speaking against the Nitish Kumar government, but now it is a crescendo with almost all its important leaders joining the anti-Nitish Kumar plank.