While the final picture in Bihar will take some time, with counting slow on account of coronavirus precautions, one thing is clear — the BJP that had remained a junior partner in the NDA in Bihar so far is going to end up having the upper hand.
Whether the NDA forms the government or not, the BJP has succeeded in eclipsing Nitish Kumar, who has had a love-hate relationship with Narendra Modi, as the face of the alliance. The BJP has declared that Nitish would be CM if the alliance won, irrespective of who gets more seats, but it won’t be easy for the JD(U) leader to swallow this “generosity”. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
The results are also set to exacerbate the BJP-JD(U) tensions over the LJP. The JD(U) suspected the BJP of propping up Chirag Paswan to cut into JD(U) votes, with Chirag concentrating his attack on Nitish.
A section in the BJP has always chafed against Nitish’s sometimes overbearing presence, particularly when it comes to Modi. This section believes that the JD(U) will disintegrate as Nitish’s popularity declines and as the party does not have a second-rung leadership. Several hope that the JD(U) leaders who drift away would eventually come to the BJP.
Weakening stronger alliance partners in states has always been a tactic national parties adopt. The BJP had tried to emerge as the dominant player in Maharashtra against the Shiv Sena and in Punjab against the Akali Dal, forcing both to eventually leave the alliance.
However, the BJP might continue to treat the JD(U) with kid gloves as it can’t afford to lose another ally with crucial Assembly elections ahead in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Letting Nitish keep the CM post will help the BJP overcome the criticism of being a not-so-trustworthy coalition partner.
For the PM, it is a double victory. The good performance in the politically crucial Hindi heartland state of Bihar gives the BJP a boost ahead of the next Assembly polls, and helps it put losses in Jharkhand, Delhi and Maharashtra behind. It will also strengthen the BJP assertion that despite Covid, the economic distress and the border standoff with China, Modi’s popularity remains intact.
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