Make or break?: On BJP’s Bihar allies

It makes no sense to save the worst for last. The allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) and the Lok Janshakti Party, have their own reasons for pushing for an early agreement on seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha election next year. Unless the BJP is willing to sacrifice some of the seats it won in 2014, it is unlikely to be able to accommodate the JD(U). The LJP does not want to be squeezed out of its six seats, and the JD(U) will not be happy if it is given seats solely on the basis of its performance in the last Lok Sabha election, when it won from just two of the 40 constituencies. For the BJP to retain all its current allies, it must consider contesting fewer seats than the 22 seats it won in the last election. That is not easy to do, and there is a real possibility of the alliance breaking on the seat-sharing issue. After frequently switching electoral partners, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar does not enjoy high political credibility despite his efforts to couch opportunism in idealistic garb. If he is unable to tie up the alliance issue, Mr. Kumar may well become isolated in Bihar. The BJP’s hand will only be strengthened the closer it gets to the Lok Sabha election, as the JD(U) will have fewer options. The national party may actually fancy its chances in a triangular fight as in 2014: leaving the JD(U) in the lurch might not be bad as a political tactic.


The JD(U) was the senior partner of the alliance in Bihar until Mr. Kumar broke away on the issue of Narendra Modi being named the prime ministerial candidate in 2014. But after its spectacular victory in 2014, the BJP feels it is on the ascendant in Bihar. Only a mahagathbandhan with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress allowed the JD(U) to make a comeback in 2015. Political manoeuvres have allowed Mr. Kumar to continue as Chief Minister as he alternately took sides against communalism and corruption, but the JD(U) is no longer the largest party in Bihar. The demand that the alliance fight the Lok Sabha election under Mr. Kumar is but a faint stab at regaining the JD(U)’s pre-2014 primacy in relation to the BJP. But while the JD(U) wants an understanding to be reached without loss of time, the BJP would like to put it off to the extent possible. BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi sought to downplay the differences, saying “when hearts have met” sharing seats was no big deal. But if there is one lesson in politics, it is that cold calculations of the mind always trump spontaneous emotions of the heart. Even if the JD(U) forces a decision in the short term, the seat-sharing may not be to its satisfaction.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 7:42:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/make-or-break/article24264869.ece

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