Big challenge for Modi-Nitish: Could allies play spoilsport ahead of 2019?

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New Delhi | Updated: December 19, 2018 2:03:44 PM

Now that Modi's popularity has started to wane, and the Congress emerging as a potent threat in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP needs to ensure that it manages its alliance partners well if it hopes to repeat the success of 2014 in Bihar.

modi nitishPrime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Ceding the three crucial Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to Congress came as a major wake up call for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and other top leaders of the BJP. The election results shattered the halo of invincibility around Modi and established that 2019 would be anybody’s game.

However, the threat for BJP comes not just from a resurgent Congress led by Rahul Gandhi but also from within. Fissures have begun to show in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the crucial state of Bihar and can prove to be extremely detrimental for the saffron brigade. The recent fallout of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha from the NDA government at the Centre and simmering issues over seat-sharing with other allies in the state could spell big trouble for Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar’s plans in Bihar.

After pulling out of NDA earlier this month, Kushwaha has sent a note of caution to other allies too. He alleged that the arrogance of BJP and Nitish Kumar was one of the reasons why he quit the NDA and warned that others will meet the same fate. In a direct message to Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Kushwaha said that it should walk out of alliance as soon as possible as BJP and Nitish had decided to destroy smaller alliance parties.

The Lok Janshakti Party, which is the only remaining constituent of the BJP-led NDA left in Bihar apart from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), has already mounted pressure on BJP over the issues pertaining to allies. LJP parliamentary board chairman Chirag Paswan, son of party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, has already expressed his disappointment at the failure to find any headway in chalking out a seat-sharing formula so far. This, despite “a number of meetings with the BJP leadership” on the issue.

“Following the exit of the TDP and the RLSP, the NDA is passing through trying times. In view of this, it is imperative that the BJP addresses the concerns of those still in the alliance in a timely and respectable manner,” Chirag Paswan posted on his Twitter handle. Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, however, refused to comment saying “it is Chirag’s department”.

Why Bihar is crucial for BJP in 2019?

After surrendering the three Hindi-heartland states, which offer 65 Lok Sabha seats, the 40 constituencies of Bihar have become absolutely crucial for BJP keeping in mind that a plausible grand alliance may eat its mammoth seat-tally in Uttar Pradesh. With little to expect from states like West Bengal and Kerala and BJP’s Lok Sabha tally facing a dip of 31 seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (going by the results of assembly segments in these states), BJP needs to win most of the seats in Bihar and repeat its performance in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2014, BJP and its allies including LJP and RLSP won a whopping 31 Lok Sabha seats out of 40 constituencies. BJP alone bagged 22 seats with a vote share of 29.40 per cent. LJP and RLSP won 6 and 3 seats with a vote share of over 6 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. RJD won 4 seats but had a vote share of over 20 per cent and JD(U), which pulled out of NDA breaking 17-year-long alliance, got 2 seats with a vote share of over 15 per cent.

The first worrying sign for Modi-Shah duo came in Bihar where it was stunned by a grand alliance of JD(U), Congress and RJD in 2015 assembly polls. Now that the RLSP has parted ways and LJP is showing discontent, BJP is left with only JD(U). On the other hand, Congress and RJD are more than willing to put up a joint fight to dethrone BJP in 2019.

The biggest factors for BJP in 2014 were unprecedented Modi wave, BJP’s clean sweeps in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and a big victory against key rivals in Bihar. Now that Modi’s popularity has started to wane, and the Congress emerging as a potent threat in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP needs to ensure that it manages its alliance partners well if it hopes to repeat the success of 2014 in Bihar.

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