Bihar Politics: Implications Of Chirag Paswan Sinking Nitish Kumar In 2020 Elections
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s decision to dump the BJP-led NDA coalition and once again ally with Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD was in large part due to Chirag Paswan, who demolished the JD(U) in the 2020 polls.
Context: In 2020, LJP's Paswan chose to withdraw from the NDA and put up LJP candidates against the JD(U) alone.
The party founded by his father, Ram Vilas Paswan, holds major sway over the Dalit population of Bihar.
The impact: Paswan's decision on the JD(U) was dreadful. In a house of 243, the JDU’s seat count fell from 71 in 2015 to 43.
Its vote share in contested seats fell by 8 per cent; it fell to the third spot on the seat tally, behind both the RJD and the BJP.
Kumar had to suffer the insult of becoming CM, as the sorry rump of an alliance was now twice his size.
The NDA crossed the halfway mark only thanks to its two smaller partners — that too by just three seats.
In addition, the JDU’s win ratio plummeted by half.
Adding insult to injury, the JD(U)’s core vote base turned out to be not much more than 10 per cent if one discounted the BJP’s contribution.
This was the JD(U)’s worst performance since the party was formed in 2003.
Numbers tell us: Going deeper into the figures, several facts stand out, all of which point to Kumar's waning popularity.
In 25 seats which the JD(U) lost to the RJD, the LJP’s vote share was greater than the JD(U)’s loss margin (meaning that the JDU would have won those seats had the LJP not contested).
Even the Congress party, pretty much a no-show in Bihar politics, defeated the JD(U) in six seats, which a united NDA would have otherwise won easily.
This means that the JD(U) could have won over 70 seats if the NDA hadn’t frayed, and, the RJD would have won less than 50 seats.
Excuses abound: Kumar may blame the BJP for instigating Paswan into putting up LJP candidates against the JD(U).
Invoking this after 19 months only makes Kumar's case flimsy.
As BJP leader Sushil Modi asked in an interview: If that were true, why did Nitish Kumar stay with the NDA in the run-up to the 2020 elections, and why did he wait till now to make such accusations?
JD(U), a spent force: Nitish Kumar may have picked up a temporary insurance policy by aligning with the RJD, but his own relevance is being questioned.
Chirag Paswan may not enjoy the kind of Dalit support his father did, but he can certainly ensure that this vote will not shift to the Mahagathbandhan (MGB).
If a fringe party like the LJP can damage the JD(U), imagine how dependent Kumar is on the RJD, and what little he actually brings to the electoral table.
The six losses by JD(U) candidates to the Congress magnify Kumar’s limitations in leading the charge against the BJP — especially in the forthcoming general elections of 2024, when people will ask a simple question: if he can’t defeat the Congress, how will he defeat the BJP?
New caste-faith lines have been drawn by the MGB, perhaps for the last time in Bihar, with the coalition depending on a substantial Kurmi-Yadav-Muslim bloc for their political fortunes.
Even at full strength, the MGB will be hard-pressed to get much more than 40 per cent of the vote, precisely because of the social engineering employed in its structuring.
The JD(U) will see mass desertion, as its members will be inclined to join the NDA. This will happen as the next elections grow closer.
Bottom line: It is too late for Kumar to keep complaining. He brought this decline upon himself. This is what identity politics does to politicians: it works so well that they don’t know what to do when it doesn’t.
Adapted from Venu Gopal Narayanan's article.
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