Why BJP’s Bihar outreach should leave Nitish Kumar a worried man

The unprecedented show of strength by the BJP in Bihar, when viewed in the context of its deteriorating ties with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), signals there is more to the party’s 2024 push than what meets the eye.

Why BJP’s Bihar outreach should leave Nitish Kumar a worried man
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

The twin messaging emanating from the recently concluded joint National Executive meeting of all seven wings (morchas) of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar’s capital city of Patna is hard to miss. There are two sides to it. On the face of it, the BJP maintains that it was an event to exhort party workers to start preparing for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 and to enthuse party workers to work towards achieving yet another victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is also what Union Home minister Amit Shah conveyed to the party leaders and workers and was reflected in the resolution passed at the mega meet. 

Yet, the nature and timing of the BJP’s outreach in Bihar, when viewed from the prism of the love-hate relationship that the BJP shares with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), betrays the simplistic narrative that the BJP hopes to drive home. And while the BJP’s top leadership reaffirmed its faith in Nitish Kumar as the leader of the NDA going into the Bihar Assembly elections in 2025, party insiders are also viewing it as a show of strength, one that cannot be viewed in isolation with the frosty ties between the two ruling alliance partners. But before we dive into the second aspect of the messaging, a look at what transpired in Patna over the past week to set things into context.

Also Read: Bihar: New low for NDA, BJP’s pushback and a new headache for Nitish Kumar

BJP Samyukta Morcha meeting: An unprecedented outreach

There were many firsts that made the the two-day event worth taking note of. For starters, this is the first ever meeting of all the seven morchas of the BJP. These included the Kisan Morcha, Mahila Morcha, SC Morcha, Yuva Morcha, ST Morcha, OBC Morcha and Minority Morcha.

The office-bearers of BJP’s seven morchas had spread out in all 243 assembly constituencies in the state, stayed put there on July 28 and 29, and returned with feedback on the schemes rolled out by the Modi government which were discussed during the July30-31 meetings. The office-bearers also had instructions to take these schemes to the people of Bihar and also inform them of the achievements of the Modi government in its eight years in power. 

Why BJP’s Bihar outreach stands out 

A couple of things stand out from this outreach by the BJP. One, why did the BJP choose Bihar to undertake this exercise, the first ever for the party? The last time that the BJP held its National Executive in Patna was before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, but the mandate was limited to OBC outreach. That has changed this time as the BJP looks set to woo the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, youth, women and farmers. Many of these groups, SC and women in particular, have formed the core vote bank of Nitish Kumar.

The most significant takeaway, however, is that the saffron party is not limiting its outreach only to its strongholds, but to all assembly constituencies in Bihar. “The instructions from the party leadership were to spread out all over Bihar and see how people responded to various welfare schemes introduced by the Modi government,” a BJP leader part of the two-day meet told Financial Express Digital.  

In the last elections in the state that the NDA own, the BJP won 74 of the 110 seats it had contested. The JD(U), on the other hand, managed to bag only 43 seats of the 115 that it fielded its contestants from. Will this arrangement change in the coming elections?

Is BJP ready to ditch Nitish Kumar?

Indications from the central leadership may suggest otherwise, but party sources believe this approach may unintentionally prepare them for any untoward situation. “Nitish Kumar practices the politics of uncertainty. And if BJP’s efforts to strenghten our base in Bihar, where PM Modi is very popular, also prepares us for a future without the JD(U), so be it!” a BJP leader said on the condition that he not be named.  

Arun Singh, BJP national general secretary, however sets aside these arguments. “The BJP believes in coalition dharma. We are looking forward to contesting the general election and the assembly polls of 2025 in alliance with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U),” he said responding to a query on whether the BJP morchas meeting was a signal to the Bihar CM.   

The meeting came close on the heels of Nitish Kumar’s repeated snubs to the BJP. He skipped a meeting of chief ministers called by Home minister Amit Shah. He did not attend the farewell dinner hosted for former President Ram Nath Kovind and also skipped the oath ceremony of President Droupadi Murmu. Nitish skipped these events after a prolonged clash within the NDA with the BJP continuously snapping at his toes on a number of issues. 

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