The Bihar Assembly election has given the BJP-led NDA a majority of 125 seats. The Narendra Modi-led saffron party won 74 seats, while Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) managed 43 and both Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Vikassheel Insaan Party got four seats each.
With BJP becoming the elder brother in seat sharing, Nitish Kumar’s dream of returning to the chief minister’s chair for a record fourth time entirely depends on his ally.
While the votes were still being counted, senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya was quoted by the NDTV as saying: “PM Modi’s image sailed us through… By evening, we will decide on the issues of government formation and leadership.”
Though the statement indicated the BJP could think of another leader to lead the state, Vijayvargiya clarified the party would “stick to its promise” of Nitish Kumar returning as the chief minister if the results ended in their favour.
However, it is likely that the BJP may insist on a larger share in the ministerial pie and a greater say in governance.
The abysmal performance of JD(U) reflects a strong anti-incumbency sentiment against Nitish Kumar’s leadership. Though leaders close to him insisted “Brand Nitish” was not dented, they agreed the results were less than favourable.
There is also a perception that Chirag Paswan was either asked or permitted to go rogue by the saffron party to reduce Nitish Kumar as a smaller player. Such a scenario would allow the BJP to decide the future of JD(U).
Although Chirag’s LJP is a BJP ally, yet it decided to go solo for the Bihar polls and its leader continuously targeted Nitish Kumar throughout the election campaign. JD(U) leader KC Tyagi asserted Chirag had cannibalised Nitish Kumar’s voter base.
This year’s Assembly poll has another significance attached to it. Nitish Kumar while wrapping up his Bihar campaign had announced this was his last election. So, the turf is wide open for a new talent.
BJP lacks a face in the state that could take everyone along. It has managed to claim the deputy CM chair but Sushil Kumar Modi doesn’t have mass appeal. Also, there are differences within party ranks over his projection as the CM.
BJP could use its higher voter share this time to hunt and nurture new talents among its cadre. The party has enough time to go solo for 2025.
Though the Opposition led by Tejashwi Prasad managed to give a tough fight, yet it failed to encash on the anti-incumbency factor.
Looks like the Biharis are unhappy with Nitish, yet they are not ready to accept anyone else.