#BiharElections2020: Can BJP break from the shackles of JD(U) in Bihar?

There is a consensus building among opinion polls that BJP could outnumber JD(U) in Bihar elections. Anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar is being touted as the main reason. Conspiracy theories floating on the ground suggest that BJP has prompted LJP to field candidates against JD(U) in a bid to weaken Kumar’s claim to CM’s chair. 

BJP was the senior partner of the NDA till 2000 in Bihar. Despite having more MLAs (35) than Samata Party (27) and JD(U) (18), Vajpayee preferred Nitish as CM, when people of the state gave a hung verdict. Nitish could survive only a week as CM as he didn’t have the numbers. After the merger of Samata Party and JD(U) in 2003, BJP became the junior partner in the alliance.  For the past 15 years, BJP has been piggybacking on the shoulders of ‘sushashan babu’’.

Nitish was picked by Vajpayee because the state BJP lacked leaders of the stature of Kumar, Lalu, Paswan, Sharad, Fernandes in the state. Deputy CM for three terms and OBC leader Sushil Modi, is not considered a mass leader. He has preferred the MLC route rather than contesting MLA elections. 

In party circles, he is accused of being soft on Nitish and toeing his line. If BJP gets more seats than JD(U) and is in a position to install its own CM, then it is very unlikely that party will choose him. In 2015 when BJP and JD(U) divorced, the party didn’t name Sushil as its CM candidate. However, he does enjoy the highest rating among BJP leaders with 12% votes for the most preferred CM.

BJP candidate from Nokha Assembly constituency, Rameshwar Prasad Chaurasia, could emerge as a dark horse. The four-time EBC BJP MLA is known for his proximity to the PM. Giriraj Singh, minister in Modi cabinet, has emerged as a preferred CM candidate of 5% respondents. He has been a vocal champion of Hindutva politics. Singh is a known detractor of Kumar since the days when he served in the state cabinet. He is a controversial figure like Yogi Adityanath and a Bhumihar by caste. Both Hindi heartland states having an upper caste CM may not go well among the OBC voters of BJP.

Another contender is Nityanand Rai, who is a Yadav. Rai is seen as a leader with the potential to make a dent in Lalu’s traditional social support base.  He is currently Minister of State for Home in Modi’s cabinet. Nand Kishore Yadav, former Leader of Opposition and currently a minister in Kumar’s cabinet could be a surprise pick as well. Social engineering will play a key role in determining the CM candidate.

While some of the state leaders have been cosying up to Nitish, central leaders like Giriraj have attacked him over a number of issues. BJP has somewhat succeeded in emerging as an opposition within the alliance. While people of the state are angry with Nitish for underperformance in his 3rd term, BJP has emerged as largely unscathed of Kumar’s anti-incumbency, by showcasing Modi’s work for the poor and downtrodden and en-cashing his popularity. Prime Minister is slated to hold a dozen rallies starting October 23 to boost chances of NDA.  

Over the years the party has created a strong vote block consisting of upper caste, OBCs, and SCs. Women turnout is higher than men in the state. Welfare schemes of the central government like Ujjwala, Beti bachao beti padhao are quite popular. The transfer of Rs. 500 for 3 months to female Jan Dhan account holders could also help the party’s fortunes. 

Break Up of BJP Vote Share

2014 LS2015 VS2019 LS
Upper Caste12%13%7%

With restrictions in place for campaigning during COVID-19, digital politics is the buzzword. BJP is very strong and way ahead of others in virtual / social / digital media campaigns and communicating through whatsapp groups.


The party is facing an issue of rebels as it is contesting some 50 seats less than 2015. The overdependence on Modi factor could also be its undoing as data shows that few people vote on national issues in state polls.  The migrant crisis and high unemployment levels amidst the pandemic due to strict lockdown imposed can affect BJP’s chances. 32 of the 38 districts were the most affected by reverse migration.  Here the administrative efficacy in implementation of the schemes by the centre would play a key role. 

This Article has been originally published here

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