The BJP will take a fresh look at its Bihar candidates after ally Chirag Paswan’s move to go solo has recast political calculations ahead of the October-November state election. Sources say the party plans to tweak its strategy and its choice of candidates, given the changed caste equations.
Top BJP leaders, including Bihar in-charge Devendra Fadnavis and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, are meeting in Delhi at party chief JP Nadda’s home.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Nadda and other top leaders in the party’s central election committee held discussions on Bihar seats and candidates.
Chirag Paswan, the leader of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), announced yesterday that he would not contest the polls as part of the National Democratic Alliance, asserting that it had a problem with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar even though there was “no bitterness” with the BJP.
Chirag Paswan, whose father Ram Vilas Paswan is a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, said his party and the BJP would form government after the Bihar election. He also declared that he would put up candidates opposite Nitish Kumar’s party Janata Dal United (JDU) but avoid seats being contested by the BJP.
Many believe Chirag Paswan’s move, which followed two meetings with the BJP leadership in Delhi, has the tacit blessings of the BJP in its “Plan B” to keep ally Nitish Kumar in check. That no BJP leader has reacted or posted on the move targeting Nitish Kumar even 12 hours later, has reinforced speculation. Outwardly, however, the BJP brass has firmly endorsed Nitish Kumar as the NDA coalition’s leader for the polls.
Sources on Sunday said in the BJP-Nitish Kumar seat pact, the JDU may contest 122 of Bihar’s 243 seats and the BJP, 121. The BJP was to provide for seats for the LJP from its share, but that is moot for now.
The LJP, which claims a strong Dalit vote-base, has followed a similar strategy in past elections. In 2005, the party contested against ally RJD, preventing Lalu Yadav’s party from winning another term. The election resulted in a hung assembly and in subsequent polls, Nitish Kumar won enough seats to form government.
Chirag Paswan had been building up to the split with his frequent, unsubtle digs at Nitish Kumar over the past few months. He openly criticised the Chief Minister’s handling of the coronavirus and the migrant crisis. Mr Kumar’s move to bring to the NDA former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader like the Paswans with a similar support base, worsened the feud.