Can BJP trust Nitish Kumar?
Bihar Assembly and Lok Sabha elections have always been centre of attraction. Bihar being a large state, holds one of the highest seat shares in the elections, 243 and 39 respectively in Assembly and Lok Sabha.
Nitesh Kumar is a dynamic leader who has changed the political scenario of Bihar terrifically. He has proved his dominance and built the trust of people in recent years. He plays a crucial role in shaping the political scenario of Bihar.
The equation in the last 15 years is that it will be Janata Dal (United) (JDU) having an upper hand on deciding which party will come to power. In 2005, when JDU was with BJP, then it was the ruling party, however, when JDU joined hands with RJD in 2015, it was then when they came to power.
Fundamentally, out of the trio, whichever of the two come together will form the government. But the catch here is that Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will never join hands. Why can't they come together? This is because of the difference in the voter's bank of both the parties. The upper cast can not accept BJP being in alliance with Lallu's RJD. And if RJD comes together with BJP, that will hamper the trust of their Muslim voters.
So, out of the three parties, whichever two come together will form the government. But BJP and RJD can never form a coalition. Which is why it leaves only Nitish Kumar in a unique position to decide which of the two parties can form a coalition.
So, it is only Nitish Kumar who can switch alliance, and that is what gives him unique leverage.
This is because Nitish Kumar comes from a caste that is not numerically high is number. For example, Yadavs consist of 10 to 13 per cent of the total Bihar population, but Nitish comes from Kurmi caste, which hardly constitutes of 3 per cent.
Only Nitish Kumar has the flexibility of moving towards either of the sides.
So can BJP trust Nitish Kumar?
The answer is both Yes and No.
Yes, because since 2005, JDU and BJP have been in alliance.
No, because Nitish Kumar has a tendency of shifting alliance. He joins hands with the BJP but has never accepted their agenda. He tries to run his own agenda parallelly.
The assumption was that JDU will take more seats compared to BJP. But symbolically, JDU did take one extra seat from BJP. However, BJP being in the centre should have asked for more seats. Even in the Lok Sabha, BJP had more seats compared to JDU. But ultimately, Nitish Kumar prevailed and he got not only equal seats but symbolically one extra seat.
BJP tried to checkmate Nitish by encouraging the allies to demand more seats. For instance, small allies of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) like Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). According to BJP's gameplan, the local allies of NDA should demand more seats so that Nitish's claim on the seat will decrease. Therefore, BJP can ask JDU to accommodate the demand of the allies.
BJP wanted, primarily LJP, to demand more seats so that Nitish's seat share decreases. But BJP on the other hand also wants Nitish to at least win minimum seats so that NDA can come into power. However, Nitish should depend upon BJP to form the government. The whole agenda was to give limited seats to Nitish so that he doesn't have the power to form an alliance with RJD.
After the sad demise of Ram Vilas Paswan, his son Chirag Paswan is the new face of the LJP.
Chirag Paswan was always attacking Nitish, but he was careful not to attack BJP. He has said in a statement that LJP will contest election outside NDA. Chirag also made it very clear that the party won't be contesting against BJP candidates. LJP came out with a slogan "BJP se bair nahi, Nitish teri khair nahi (No enmity with BJP but won't spare Nitish Kumar)."
BJP's main agenda is to get Nitish minimum seats to get NDA to form the government. But, Nitish should depend upon BJP. BJP doesn't want JDU to win a number of seats which can allow him to form an alliance with RJD. BJP is trying its best to give a minimum number of seats to the RJD, but at the same time, BJP doesn't want JDU to repeat the same deed that they did in 2015. So, the best way to pursue this was to give minimum seats to JDU, and the rest to the alliance which can be effortlessly managed by BJP.
But Nitish is not someone BJP can fool around with. Nitish told the BJP that if they have a problem with the allies, then they should expel the allies. JDU then banished LJP from the NDA. Now, BJP and JDU are contesting for an almost similar number of seats, 121 and 122 respectively.
Out of the 122 seats, JDU is giving five seats to HAM (Hindustani Awam Morcha), and BJP gave three seats from its quota to VIP (Vikassheel Insaan Party). Inside the NDA, what will happen is one debate, but the main concern is about the internal dynamics of BJP and JDU.
Will JDU join hands with RJD?
In the immediate scenario, both JDU and BJP need each other. JDU government needs assistance from the centre and the BJP needs to win the election with the help of JDU. JDU's help is not just limited to Bihar election. Later when the Bengal elections come up (since Bihar is a neighbouring state of Bengal) contesting elections from Bengal will send them on a higher drive. So, it's unlikely that these two parties will betray each other immediately. But, BJP may try to outmanoeuvre JDU and Nitish Kumar by 2022 or 2023, just before Lok Sabha elections.
If at all RJD and JDU come together, they can form the government and this itself gives Nitish stronger leverage and a better bargaining point.
After Ram Vilas Paswan is no more, how much does the community trust Chirag Paswan? The LJP is a sub-caste party. Until Ram Vilas Paswan was heading the party, the community used to transfer their votes according to him. Now that Chirag Paswan is leading the party, his hold in the community will play a significant role in the elections. At the end of the day, the community members are Dalit and therefore they are more vulnerable and more dependent on the welfare assistance from the government. The Dalits will support their leader, but this won't overpower their trust on Nitish Kumar. They have this thought in their mind that if Nitish is absent from the scenario, their welfare structure may be damaged.