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STAKES ARE HIGH FOR NITISH

Lok Sabha elections take place to form government in the centre, but in Bihar the  outcome of 16th Lok Sabha election will decide the future of Nitish government as well. The reason is very simple. Nitish is heading a minority government since he severed his alliance with BJP. With the help of Congress and independent MLAs he had established the majority of his minority government after the breakup of the alliance, but some  MLAs of his own JD(U) have deserted the party since then. He can no longer depend upon the support of Congress MLAs, because the oldest party is now friend of Lalu Yadav of RJD.

Though, Nitish has engineered defection among RJD and some of its MLAs are supporting him, their status as members of the house is doubtful because of the Anti Defection Law. Some BJP MLAs have shown their willingness to support Nitish Kumar. The situation is so fluid that it is very difficult to calculate how many MLAs are now with Nitish and how many are opposing him. But one thing is certain. Nitish has to prove his majority in Bihar Legislative Assembly again after the Lok Sabha elections and it will be not easy for him to do that.

The success or failure of Nitish Kumar in saving his government depends upon the result of Lok Sabha election  in 40  constituencies in Bihar. Pre poll surveys’ predictions are not favorable to him. Though, these surveys are highly motivated, flawed and not trustworthy, anyone who understands the caste politics of Bihar will predict a loss of face for Nitish after Lok Sabha election. Nitish never enjoyed mass support in Bihar. In 1994, he fell out from Janata Dal and formed his own Samta Party under the leadership of George Fernandese and contested the Vidhan Sabha election of 1995. His party could get only 7 out of 324 Assembly seats of the then undivided Bihar assembly. He was almost politically dead. He got a new lease of life after joining hands with BJP before 1996 Lok Sabha elections. It was his second birth and he owes his political existence to the saffron party he deserted last year protesting the projection of Narendra Modi as the PM candidate of BJP.

BJP used him to win the support of those OBCs, who were turning against Lalu, who was charged for favoring only his castemen Yadavas and Muslims, while running the government. BJP had opposed the 27 percent reservation of OBCs in 1990 and that is why many of its OBC leaders had deserted it. The remaining leaders like Sushil Modi and Nand Kishor Yadav were not known to be the champion of OBCs, and that was the reason BJP needed Nitish Kumar to break the hold of Lalu over OBCs votes. Nitish knew his importance and derived maximum benefit from BJP. In 2000  elections, his Samta Party had got only 29 seats, while BJP had got 65. Still he became Chief Minister of Bihar only to lose the confidence motion in the Assembly.

When Narendra Modi was emerging as the tallest leader of BJP, Nitish got threatened, because he knew that his importance to grab OBC voters will end, once Modi becomes the supreme leader of BJP. Many BJP leaders may not know whether Modi was OBC or an upper caste Marwadi, but Nitish was well aware of his caste status and when leaders like Ramvilas Paswan were asking for the resignation of Narendra Modi after Gujarat riots, Nitish was silent and he had told one of his friends that he supported Modi because of his OBC status. This was the year of 2002, but by 2010, the same OBC status started threatening the political fortune of Nitish Kumar in Bihar. He started opposing  Modi’s elevation in BJP by projecting himself as the champion of Muslim causes.  He just not wanted to see another OBC leader leading BJP, because in that case he would have lost his own position among the alliance as an OBC leader.

The fear has come true. Now Modi is leading BJP in Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party is attracting a sizable chunk of anti Lalu OBC votes. Nitish himself is now blaming BJP that it was once harping on the Hindutva politics and now indulging in caste politics. All BJP candidates are approaching the voters of Bihar to make an OBC as next PM of India. This has rattled the politics of Nitish Kumar, who himself had created  caste rifts in Bihar by dividing Scheduled Caste people as Dalit and Mahadalit, Muslims as upper caste and OBC Muslims. He even tried to create wedge between the OBCs and MBCs. By these caste divisions, Nitish was trying to grab the support of Mahadalits, OBC Muslims and MBCs. But his own brand of caste politics was demolished, when Narendra Modi became the PM candidate of BJP.

Nitish Kumar is finding himself much weakened in Bihar, but this is not true for Lalu Yadav, who hails from the single largest caste of Bihar accounting for around 14 percent of its total population. Muslims form over 16 percent of the population. So Lalu’s MY alliance has over 30 percent population of Bihar. That is the reason, in majority of 40 seats, the fight is between BJP alliance and RJD alliance. BJP has committed blunder by leaving 10 seats for Ramvilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha. Their candidates are not getting the full support of Modi’s supporters and most of them are likely to lose the election. And the beneficiaries will be the candidates of RJD and Congress. There are only a few seats, where JD(U) of Nitish Kumar is making the contest triangular. The question floating around in the political circles of Bihar is what will be the fate of Nitish government after Lok Sabha election. If Modi government is formed and Nitish loses heavily. JD(U) MLAs may feel restless in the party. BJP may try to engineer a split in the party and form its own government with the help of defectors. But defection is not easy now, because it needs two third of the total MLAs of the party to split it. The second option for BJP would be to go for Assembly Election, but majority of BJP MLAs may not like it.

And there is the third option as well and that is return of Nitish Kumar in NDA. If Lalu’s alliance performs very well, then Nitish may use anti-Lalu bogie and his friends in BJP may help to establish the old alliance again to keep Lalu away.  IPA
Upendra Prasad

Upendra Prasad

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