The BJP is likely to announce the NDA’s chief minister candidate for Bihar soon after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, well in time for the next Assembly polls in the state.
The possibility, a big departure from the BJP’s stand of contesting Assembly elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was mentioned at the core committee meeting held by the party in Kishanganj on Friday evening, presided over by visiting Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Party sources said that Shah, who addressed rallies in Seemanchal on Friday and Saturday as part of the BJP’s first big events in Bihar after losing power, said he would be visiting other areas of the state soon.
The BJP has been open to alliance with smaller Bihar parties, though there is no word yet on whether channels of communication are open with LJP (Ramvilas) leader Chirag Paswan and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) leader Mukesh Sahani. What is clear is that the BJP, as of now, is preparing for the NDA to contest all 40 Bihar seats in the 2024 polls.
There was also a mention of political analyst Prashant Kishor, who having worked with both the BJP and JD(U), is soon to mark the start of his political venture with the launch of a padyatra on October 2 Gandhi Jayanti.
In other decisions, the BJP will be focusing on strengthening the party from the booth level up, like in Tripura, Manipur and Assam, where it came up from behind to establish a stronghold. Some leaders in the party believe that the BJP can go all out, unencumbered by its ally JD(U). The latter is part of the Mahagathbandhan now, which on paper makes it part of a formidable social combination.
Party leaders said it was made clear at the meeting that the BJP does not support making Seemanchal a Union Territory, calling this view “misplaced”, though the issue of “infiltration” from Bangladesh would figure high on the BJP agenda.
During the Kishanganj leg of his Bihar visit, Shah on Saturday visited the Burhi Kali Mata temple in the Muslim-dominated town and conducted an elaborate puja. Though senior BJP leaders insisted the visit was routine, it was a clear message to the partyt’s constituency that it would wear Hindutva now on its teeth, even as it accuses Nitish of “appeasing minorities”.
The Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat is currently represented by the Congress, with the BJP winning the seat only once, in 1998, when Syed Shahnawaz Hussain had defeated Seemanchal strongman Mohammed Taslimuddin.
During his Kishanganj visit, Shah went to a border outpost at Fatehpur and inaugurated buildings of five border outposts in Kishanganj. He held meetings with top officials of the ITBP, BSF and SSB. With Bihar sharing a border with Bangladesh and Nepal, talk focused on ways to stop “infiltration” from the two countries.
The BJP’s core committee also considered the strategy to be adopted for taking on the Nitish-Lalu Prasad combination. A BJP source said: “We discussed that though Bihar had moved on from caste politics, it was a tougher state than West Bengal because of its caste factor and strong socialist roots. But we take heart from the UP 2017 Assembly polls in which the combination of the SP-BJP could not match up to us.”
The meeting was also unanimous on not “allowing return of Nitish Kumar to the NDA”. “Ab hum Nitish ko puri tarah pehchaan gaye hain (now we have fully understood Nitish Kumar),” a BJP leader said, adding that the Grand Alliance would not succeed in its caste politics as “there is no bigger EBC face than Narendra Modi”.
While Nitish had taken a stridently different stand from the BJP on the issue of caste census, leading up to the split between the two, the BJP is unlikely to bow on the issue. Leaders said it was “not feasible” as the same surname could denote separate castes and sub-castes depending on the region.
As part of its growth strategy, the BJP campaign has been taking on Lalu Prasad rather than his son Tejashwi. “Our idea is to rid Bihar of two old people, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. Tejashwi represents only Lalu,” a BJP source said, adding that Prahant Kishor was also discussed. “He has been attacking Nitish’s model of governance. That makes our job easier. However, it is wrong on the part of Nitish Kumar to say that Kishor is working on our behalf. Rather, he has been meeting Nitish Kumar more often”, a BJP source said.