BJP, JD(U) shake hands

The BJP-JD(U) patch-up was along expected lines. The alliance is mutually beneficial.

Ritam Banati

Strange are the ways of politics. It is amply clear that Narendra Modi will not be campaigning in Bihar. The reason is Nitish’s objection to him and Varun Gandhi canvassing in his state.
Earlier, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain’s categorical remarks of there being no Article 370 in Bihar implied that, democratically and constitutionally, it was not possible to stop a party leader from electioneering in any other state.

The two parties seemed on a splitsville course, when just a few days later, BJP reportedly said that JD(U)’s sensitivities will be taken into consideration when deciding the campaigners in the state.

Obviously, ground had been conceded by the BJP. It had bowed to Nitish’s requests without really saying so. So, politics is politics and ultimately, compulsions prevail.

The BJP-JD(U) is also likely to stick to their 2005 seat sharing formula, which has not come as a surprise. It can be left unsaid that the 15-year-old partnership cannot afford to break at this point, just months before Bihar polls.

The deal was sealed recently in the meeting between JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

According to the old formula, the JD(U) contested 139 seats and BJP 102. The parties had backed separate Independent candidates in the remaining two seats of the 243 seat assembly.

However because of delimitation of constituencies, any swapping of seats will be considered. The BJP top brass still says that any decision on seats that a party contests is internal.

In the language of politics, this covertly means that the party has compromised.
But it knows that any overt statements made today in this regard will only boost the JD(U)’s bargaining powers more.

The entire drama started when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar objected to a poster showing incorrect pictures of some Muslim school girls of Azamgarh (UP), presumably shown as from Gujarat. But what got him fuming was an advertisement in a local daily showing him and Modi holding hands at an earlier election campaign in Ludhiana. This immediately aroused in him fears of any potential loss of Muslim votes at this delicate juncture i.e just ahead of state elections.

Nitish, then stretched it a bit too far by returning the Rs 5 crore Kosi flood relief money back to Gujarat and canceling a dinner he was to host for the BJP during its National Executive at Patna.

Modi is despised by the state’s Muslim electorate post the Godhra riots. Since the campaigning would be for the alliance as a whole, therefore it is very likely to show Kumar as a Modi supporter and damage his image in front of the 12-16% Muslims of the state. Hence the vociferous stubbornness at not letting his state counterpart campaign in Bihar. Likewise, Varun Gandhi’s speeches are ridden with communal overtones, so Nitish cannot afford to be seen as friendly with him.

When the Bihar Chief Minister sent a police team to Surat to inquire into published advertisements, it created cracks in the coalition. But his recall of the cops at BJP’s protest showed that the fissures were just temporary.

Both the allies have known their indispensability to each other. And that is why Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi’s accompanying Nitish on the last leg of his Vishwas Yatra did not surprise. Nitish’s statement to the media on the same day, “Everything is fine”, has silenced any alarm bells.

Just days later, Bihar BJP chief CP Thakur remarked that all was indeed well and clarified that the assembly elections shall be fought together.

A brief analysis will portray why the outcome of deliberations was obvious.

In the current Bihar assembly there is no single party in a winnable position. Out of 243 seats in all, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has the highest number-81 followed by Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD-56. So the support of BJP which has 54 seats is crucial for the political survival of the coalition in the state. More so because even LJP-RJD combine cannot lay a stake in case of a crisis since Ram Vilas Paswan’s party holds just 12 seats.

In the previous elections, RJD had secured 23.45% of votes. Add the LJP’s percentage to it and the RJD-LJP combined strength will rise to 34.55%. No single party can match it. The JD(U)’s 20.46%, BJP’s 15.65% and the Congress’ 6.09% only validates the point.

It is not just the JD(U) which needs the BJP. The former itself is a key constituent of the latter party’s NDA alliance with 20 Lok Sabha seats.

So the chances of a prospective break up have always been slim. One, the 15-year old political partnership at the state level has overall paid dividends to both the parties. Two, in the current set-up, the situation can only be a win-win for both standing in unity.

Talking about the present scenario, one needs to recall that Bihar’s Council of Ministers has four Karsevaks who were involved in Ayodhya movement. So the reason why Narendra Modi is irking him now is that the wounds of the Gujarat riots are yet to subside in the electorate’s mind. The Bihar public held vociferous protests recently in a sheer display of anger and openly expressed disgruntlement with Modi and Varun Gandhi being in their state.

Kumar who has wooed them cannot afford to lose their support at this crucial pre-electoral juncture. The three categories of extremely backward castes, Mahadalits and the Muslims comprise half of Bihar`s population and Nitish has made forays into this sizable electorate.

Likewise, he cannot afford to lose the significant backing of the BJP as well. This is because had the alliance fallen apart, the threat of President’s rule would have loomed in the absence of any other viable alternative. And this would have seriously hurt political interests of both the alliance partners.

Making predictions on the outcome of Bihar assembly polls which are still months away would be a folly. But, what can be said with certainty is that the partnership has stood the test of time and has sustained its image as a force to reckon with in the state.

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