Chirag Paswan challenging Nitish Kumar in Bihar! Is there more to NDA’s pre-poll crisis than meets the eye?

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Updated: Jul 06, 2020 7:51 PM

Bihar Assembly Elections 2020: While the BJP is comfortable — so far — with Nitish heading the state government, the LJP under Chirag Paswan, son of union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, wants a change in the existing power set-up.

The LJP under Chirag Paswan wants a change in the existing power set-up.

Fissures have erupted between two NDA constituents in Bihar. Besides the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JDU) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) are two other parties that are part of NDA in Bihar. While the BJP is comfortable — so far — with Nitish heading the state government, the LJP under Chirag Paswan, son of union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, wants a change in the existing power set-up. Both the LJP and JD(U) differ on many issues, but three of them are at the centre of the present crisis — seat sharing in assembly elections, seat allocation in council and CM’s post.

According to reports, the LJP wants two seats in state council. However, Nitish Kumar, who is reportedly miffed with LJP leaders over their constant attack on him for his ‘mishandling’ of migrant crisis and ‘non-creation of enough jobs’ in the state, does not want to give any. Earlier on two occasions, LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan attacked Nitish Kumar for government deficit in the state and delay in sharing data for food beneficiary list.

The LJP also said to be reluctant in continuing under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. Some reports citing sources suggest that the LJP leaders have decided that they won’t accept Nitish Kumar as their chief minister, and would rather have someone from the saffron party occupy the highest chair in Bihar. This, however, suits the BJP as its leaders too think that Nitish Kumar has had enough and now the saffron party too should get a chance to install its chief minister in the state.

Political analysts believe that both the regional parties — LJP and JDU — are indulging in this kind of arm-twisting to corner bigger number of seats for the upcoming assembly elections. While the BJP wants to contest on equal number of seats with JDU, Nitish Kumar wants the highest number of seats. Now, the trouble for the saffron party is to cut down the JDU’s demand and then placate the ambition of Chirag Paswan, who is likely to push for bigger numbers and become a key power centre in Bihar.

Chirag Paswan wants to play a bigger role, which some interpret as his own chief ministerial ambitions. The Times of India reports that a consultant has told Chirag Paswan that people of Bihar are now fed up with Nitish and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s failures, a situation that has opened a space for the LJP to project junior Paswan as CM face in future elections in Bihar.

This may look implausible when one sees the present numbers in the House. However, Chirag’s LJP may turn out to be a king-maker in Bihar if one goes by its stellar performance in the last Lok Sabha elections. It had won all six parliamentary seats it contested in 2019. However, its performance in previous assembly polls was dismal as it could win just two of 42 seats it had contested. While in the same elections, the JDU won 71 of 101 and the BJP – 53 of 157.

But this cannot be used as barometer to make future projections as in the previous elections, JDU had contested with RJD – they together got the votes of almost every section of society. In elections, even a marginal shift of votes can result in higher number of seats on either side. This is what actually had happened in 2015 with BJP and LJP. Now that Home Minister Amit Shah has already announced that Bihar election will be fought under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, Chirag Paswan can only hope to keep the pressure on to get some more seats in pre-polls alliance and in the council — chief minister post for the LJP looks distant but the saffron party may have a chance here.

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