BJP faces challenges in the state of Bihar as it transitions to being the senior partner

Nitish Kumar took oath as Chief Minister (CM) of Bihar for the 7 th time along with two
Deputy Chief Ministers from BJP, Tarkeshwar Prasad and Renu Devi.
BJP emerged as the senior partner in the alliance with 74 seats compared to JDU’s

However, as per the pre-poll power sharing formula, Nitish continues as CM.
In the 15 member cabinet, 6 ministers are from JDU, 7 from BJP and 1 each from
HAM and VIP. Speaker’s position is also likely to be held by the BJP.

With BJP attempting to have more say and control in Nitish 4.O, top party leadership
felt the new strategy and vision will be better served with fresh faces.
Sushil Kumar Modi, who was Deputy CM with Kumar at the helm, was denied a
berth this time around by the BJP.

He was close to Nitish and squarely blamed by his detractors in party for BJP’s
inability to grow in the state and break from the shackles of JDU.
Sushil posted a terse tweet after being denied Deputy CM post, where he thanked
the party for giving him everything in his 40 year career.

Devendra Fadnavis jumped in stating that Modi could be accommodated in the
centre in a damage control exercise.

This indicates all is not well within the Bihar unit of the BJP.

The party is divided into camps – Sushil camp, central minister’s camp and now
Deputy CM camps.

Nitish claimed he wanted BJP to take over the CM role but was coerced by central
leadership of the saffron party to continue in his position.

The split in cabinet berths doesn’t give credence to the theory that BJP will have
much higher representation in the cabinet. The Deputy CM is more of a ceremonial
position not mentioned in the Constitution.

Moreover, the leaders appointed do not enjoy the charisma or the clout to take on
Nitish, challenge his decisions or drive the agenda set by the BJP.

The party doesn’t have any leader who enjoys state wide appeal. Both these names
for Deputy CMs were not even heard of by many outside the state capital.

It is precisely for the same reason, Vajpayee appointed Nitish as CM in 2000. The
Bihar unit of BJP is still grappling with the same issue.

The party also doesn’t have strong leaders in the Non Yadav OBCs, the Most
Backward Caste and the Mahadalits, which are considered as the anchor voting
segments of Nitish.

Party’s appointment of Prasad, a Vaishya and Renu, a Nonia, is an attempt to lay
claim to this loyal vote bloc of Nitish. How far the party succeeds depends upon its
ability to emerge as champion of these caste groups.

The challenges faced by the state BJP may have forced BJP to continue with a tried
and tested Nitish as CM despite having almost twice the number of MLAs. This
strategy also wards of any dissent in the party rank and file.

With a slim majority BJP cannot afford to take any chance.

Nitish is all smiles as he knows the weakness of BJP in Bihar and will exploit it to the
hilt. He may still call the shots and the wily fox he is play the various factions in BJP
against each other.

The pandemic and its effects, means that BJP needs the astute Nitish, who has a
better grip on the state machinery, to deliver on the central government’s economic
recovery plans.

The BJP MLAs have benefitted immensely from the Modi factor in Bihar elections.
72% respondents voted for NDA due to the good work done by the central
government as per Axis survey.

Whilst Nitish has built a solid base for himself through a mix of social and economic
justice, BJP has been banking on the Hindutava agenda and increasingly the Modi

The party has been unable to take credit for the reservations to MBCs and schemes
for Mahadalits despite being in the government. It never aspired to be the bigger
brother in the alliance.

Now despite having high numbers; infighting, weak party organization, lack of state
wide faces and dependence on Modi, means it could continue to play second fiddle.

Nitish is mindful of the gap and will do whatever it takes to close this, by engineering
defections, as in the past in Congress and RJD.

The expectations of the voters are high from Modi and the state BJP, while the
steering wheel still remains with Nitish at least for the medium term.

Both the parties released separate manifestos, now with Nitish as CM and BJP
ostensibly the big brother, whose agenda will be implemented?

The article was first published here.

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