NDA’s problem in Bihar: 11 CM candidates to chose from, not even one safe bet
The NDA has to get the 'Lalit Modi Gate' out of its way before it prepares for the battle.
Bhopal: Why has the BJP shied away from accepting the Janata Parivar’s challenge to announce a chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Bihar elections? By opting to move ahead on Narendra Modi’s coat-tails the party has avoided the problem of plenty. With at least 11 NDA leaders harbouring chief ministerial ambitions choosing one would be an invitation to trouble.
It is not just about nominating a leader before the elections but about sending right signals to diverse constituencies about most acceptable candidate if the alliance is returned to power. Promises have to be made to leaders to actualise their full potential during the elections. The Janata Parivar has partly solved the leadership issue. Its next hurdle lies in distributing the tickets. The NDA, on the other hand, has to get the 'Lalit Modi Gate' out of its way before it prepares for the battle.
As former deputy to chief minister Nitish Kumar, Sushil Modi could have been an automatic choice. He has been the party’s face for over 20 years in its battle against the RJD dispensation and even against the Nitish-led Janata Dal (U) after the NDA constituents fell apart. He belongs to the generation of Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Ramvilas Paswan who participated in the JP movement. But he is outspoken and has even gone against Prime Minister Modi and party president Amit Shah. The Modi-Shah duo that virtually forms the party high command is not particularly fond of SuMo as Sushil Modi came to be known. However, if the NDA acknowledges Nitish as a potential winner then Sushil Modi presents himself as an effective counterweight.
The others from within the party are Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Giriraj Singh and former ministers Shatrughan Sinha and CP Thakur. Giriraj Singh has been in news largely for his loyalty for Narendra Modi. Sinha who was once the star campaigner for the party has fallen out of favour. He says he is not keen on chief minister’s post but would like the party to announce its general before entering the battle. His loyalty to the LK Advani camp makes him unpopular with party leadership. Thakur, a Bhumihar not only has age going against him but also his caste as Giriraj Singh, the other Bhumihar, can be a younger alternative. He has categorically announced his availability for the post if the party wants.
If the party opts to neutralise Lalu Prasad’s influence among Yadavs it has strong options in former state BJP president Navalkishore Yadav and former RJD leader Ramkripal Yadav.
The three NDA constituents BJP, Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party and Upendra Kushwah’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party have crossed the first hurdle of presenting a united face for the next month's elections to 24 seats of the Bihar Legislative Council which help the parties gauge the public mood. Under the seat-sharing arrangement BJP has put up nominees for 18 seats followed by four by LJP and two by, RLSP.
RLSP had struck some jarring notes over the name of the NDA's chief ministerial candidate and allotment of seats for assembly polls. RLSP wants Kushwaha as the alliance's chief ministerial candidate. The party wanted BJP to stick to the 102 Assembly seats which it had fought earlier in partnership with JD(U) and leave the remaining 141 for RLSP and LJP. Paswan has clearly indicated that he would go by the BJP’s choice in the matter. That doesn’t rule out his prospects to lead the NDA if it comes to power.
Like so many others in the BJP and the RSS some Samajwadi Party leaders are defending Sushma Swaraj over the Lalit Modi episode, but the Janata Parivar should be only too happy to find cracks in the Sangh Parivar ahead of the elections in Bihar.
It is hard to say if the BJP over-estimated the benefits of embracing Mahadalit leader Jitanram Manjhi or, if the Janata Parivar has underestimated his utility? Amit Shah expects Manjhi to fetch all the 22 per cent Dalit votes to the NDA. In the process the party has antagonised its own Mahadalit leader Prem Kumar, a seven-term MLA and a former minister.
The Janata Parivar hasn’t convincingly explained why it settled for a loose coalition instead of a merger. The BJP has been using every opportunity to prod the Parivar on the issue. Lalu Prasad who tried to grab martyrdom while supporting Nitish Kumar as the chief minister needs to establish his hold on the Yadav and Muslim votes by transferring them to Nitish Kumar. Muslims may vote against the BJP but the Yadav vote seems set to split.
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