Nitish In Bihar, Chirag At Centre: What It Means For 2025 Assembly Elections

Abhishek Kumar

Jun 17, 2024, 10:33 AM | Updated 11:13 AM IST

Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar.
Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar.
  • Modi government has inducted eight MPs from Bihar, giving insight into the strategy for the 2025 assembly elections. It also suggest that Nitish Kumar may lead the NDA flag in 2025.
  • The Narendra Modi government is up and running. Once again, the traditional wisdom of giving Bihar significant representation has been followed. Eight Members of Parliament (MPs) from Bihar have been inducted into Modi 3.0.

    From Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) itself, Giriraj Singh, Nityanand Rai, Raj Bhushan Chaudhary and Satish Chandra Dubey are in charge.

    From the coalition, Chirag Paswan, head of Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) (LJP(RV)) is the most prominent name. He is heading the Food Processing Ministry. Lalan Singh, Minister of Panchayati Raj and Jitan Ram Manjhi, Minister for MSMEs are other prominent coalition members who have been awarded ministerial positions.

    These appointments give us insight into the strategy behind upcoming 2025 assembly elections in Bihar.

    No Dissenters In Sight For Nitish Kumar?

    For Nitish Kumar, the road to his yet another chief ministerial ambition looks greener than it was a month ago. The reason being two of the possible dissenters have been accommodated in Delhi.

    One of them is Lalan Singh, arguably second in command in Janata Dal (United) or JD(U). Singh was national president of JD(U) for two and half years between July 2021 and December 2023. During his tenure as national president, Singh is believed to have begun a rebellion against Kumar.

    He wanted Tejashwi Yadav as chief minister (CM), but Kumar did not agree to it. To workaround disqualification of 10-12 possible defectors from JD(U) in Bihar Assembly, Singh was rumoured to use his powers as president of the party. In return, he was supposed to get a Rajya Sabha ticket when the tenure of Manoj Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) would end.

    But he was ousted from presidency at a crucial juncture and later handed a Lok Sabha ticket from Munger. With a ministerial post, it is highly unlikely that he will repeat his December 2023 adventure.

    Secondly, Jitan Ram Manjhi is also one of the more ambitious and gutsy names in Bihar politics. When Kumar gave him chief ministerial position in 2014, little did he know that Manjhi was not going to be a puppet. Within the next nine months, Kumar wanted his position back but Manjhi refused and floated a new party, which contested 2015 assembly elections against Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan in Bihar.

    Manjhi got a ministerial position despite being the lone MP from his party, something which explains how important it is for Nitish Kumar to keep him at the Centre.

    What’s With Chirag Paswan?

    Chirag Paswan has emerged as the next big thing in Bihar politics with 100 per cent strike rate in five out of five seats his party contested. The question is how much he and his party will have sway over 2025 elections.

    All the cheers and congratulations Paswan and his party LJP(RV) are getting does not change the fact that LJP(RV) is expected to find it tough to keep the momentum going in 2025.

    Even when LJP was a unified unit, it returned with three and two seats in the 2010 and 2015 elections respectively. In 2010, it contested on 75 seats while in 2015, it was asked to contest only on 42 seats by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). These numbers are primarily because Ram Vilas Paswan was more inclined towards politics at the Centre, rather than state.

    Pollsters and observers realised LJP’s heft only after its bifurcation. The Chirag led faction contested on 135 seats and emerged as a catalyst in reducing JD(U)’s seat share from 80 to 43.

    With the fear factor around him and the new momentum, Chirag Paswan’s role in 2025 is expected to spike up. On the other hand, his taking role in the Union government also indicates that the BJP-led NDA wants to give him time to consolidate his organisation and position further in the state.

    Chirag is the young and Dalit face of NDA in Bihar and the alliance would wait for his LJP(RV) to gain more traction than haphazardly jumping on the bandwagon. LJP(RV) has to emerge from the shadow of a catalyst and present itself as a winner.

    Nitish Kumar May End Up Leading NDA Flag In 2025

    One of the biggest failures of BJP in this election in Bihar is its inability to come up with a face for chief ministerial position. Samrat Choudhary, party’s state chief is currently the most prominent face in the state. However, the  shoddy and less than expected performance has raised questions above his ability.

    Issues in the state unit involved absence of credible feedback mechanism, huge discontentment among party workers and high-handedness in ticket distribution among others.

    To add insult to injury for Choudhary, he could not galvanise Kushwaha voters towards NDA. When Choudhary was appointed as deputy chief minister and state president, getting Luv-Kush (Koeri-Kurmi) votes for NDA was one of the goals.

    Under Choudhary, the party's vote-share was 20.52 per cent, a decline from 23.58 per cent in 2019. Even the seat share was down by five (12 compared to 17 in 2019 elections), even though the party contested as senior partner in the coalition.

    It is practically too difficult to launch a new face or revive Choudhary’s prospects in a span of one and half years. Other options of parachuting chief minister candidates can never work in the underdeveloped and politically aware state of Bihar.

    The alternative face BJP could pick from NDA is Chirag Paswan. However, he has yet to prove his mettle in local elections.

    The negation of viable options leave BJP with no choice other than choosing Nitish Kumar as the CM face for the 2025 election.

    The EBC Push

    Through their ticket distribution strategy in the 2024 election, father-son duo of Lalu Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav have opened up a new front for BJP and by extension NDA.

    For the first time, RJD tried to shed its image of being a Yadav dominated party. RJD ensured that at least 20 per cent of the seats go to the Luv-Kush caste duo, second biggest Other Backward Class (OBC) group in Bihar. Through this approach, the eyes are on 27.12 per cent OBC votes of Bihar.

    Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs), comprising 36.01 per cent is another group which Tejashwi Yadav is trying to target through his alignment with Mukesh Sahani of Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). He represents Nishad community, comprising 20 odd castes keeping river economy going in Bihar. Currently, he holds considerable sway over EBC voters, especially in assembly elections.

    BJP handing ministerial positions to Muzaffarpur MP Raj Bhushan Choudhary and Ramnath Thakur, is believed to be an attempt to counter the RJD-VIP combination. While Choudhary belongs to the same community as Sahani and had also contested Muzaffarpur seat in 2019 on VIP ticket, Thakur is son of Bharat Ratna Karpoori Thakur, a cult figure among EBCs.

    But getting OBCs, especially Yadavs to vote for NDA is going to be tricky, especially after Kushwahas siding with RJD.

    Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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