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'Nitish and RJD can form next govt in Bihar'

By ARCHANA MASIH
October 23, 2020 11:45 IST
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'The main characteristic of Bihar politics is that it has always affected Delhi.'

IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses an election meeting in Muzaffarpur district, October 22, 2020. Photograph: PTI Photo

"Nitish Kumar and the RJD can also form an alliance because anything is possible in politics as we have seen in Maharashtra," says Professor Rajiv Kumar, head of department of politics, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari, as he discusses the Bihar election with Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

 

What are some of the unique aspects of Bihar politics which will influence this assembly election?

In spite of being a backward state, Bihar politics has always been innovative. History shows that the state has introduced new phenomena in the country's politics.

For example, (then chief minister) Karpoori Thakur ushered in backward politics, the politics of reservation, the halting of Advani's rath yatra etc, so one can draw the hypothesis that Bihar politics has always been innovative and introduced elements that have later been accepted in national politics.

Bihar politics has always affected the politics of Delhi.

How do you assess Nitish Kumar's 15 year legacy in the state?

The emergence of Nitish Kumar was pushed by the negative factors of the preceding Lalu Yadav years. Nitish Kumar emerged as a reaction to Lalu Yadav politics. It was a reaction to the grave law and order situation under Lalu Yadav.

Later Nitish proved himself a good administrator and improved law and order, infrastructure and electricity.

The culture of politics and governance changed under Nitish Kumar. Yet Nitish Kumar has been chief minister for 15 years now and many young voters have emerged during this time. These voters have no experience of Lalu's time.

He is nearing 70 and is confronting the anti incumbency factor.

Nitish Kumar has never been a popular mass leader with many parliamentary seats, but he has been a three-term CM who undoubtedly pushed Bihar on a positive path.

After 15 years the expectations of people from Nitish Kumar have also increased and they are not very satisfied.

How is this election important and different?

In past elections there has been a Lalu phobia which is not so this time. That is why the RJD under Tejashwi is emerging as a strong contender in this election.

Tejaswhi is young and focussing on common people's agenda like jobs, poverty. He has also introduced some social engineering unlike Mulayam, Akhilesh and Lalu who were confined to politics of Yadav and Muslim voters.

Meanwhile, the activities of Tejashwi are giving the message that the RJD is open to all castes. They have given tickets to upper castes like Thakurs which indicates they are trying some social engineering, similar to what Mayawati did in UP.

Few upper caste JD-U leaders have left Nitish and joined the RJD. Some prominent politicians who could not get tickets from the JD-U, BJP and those unhappy with the BJP-JDU alliances have been given tickets by the RJD.

IMAGE: Janata Dal-United President Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav with Lok Janshakti Party President Chirag Paswan, centre, at the shradha ceremony for LJP founder Ram Vilas Paswan who died on October 8, 2020. Photograph: PTI Photo

What impact is Chirag Paswan and LJP going to have on the results?

Though the LJP have broken their alliance with the NDA in Bihar, they are maintaining relations with the BJP in Delhi.

Ram Vilas Paswan's son is ambitious and one can see a pro-BJP sentiment in their political meetings.

Chirag Paswan is not targeting the BJP. He only has one target - Nitish Kumar.

There is a perception in Bihar that even the BJP wants to see a depleted status of Nitish Kumar.

The question is whether the Bihar voter is ready to replace Nitish Kumar and if yes, then who do they see as the next CM -- Tejaswi or Chirag because the BJP has no CM face.

The BJP is manipulating both sides. It is fighting the election with Nitish Kumar, but seems to have an underground understanding with Chirag Paswan.

But the BJP has several of its own CM aspirants -- Sushil Kumar Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Giriraj Singh...

These aspirants have limited reach. They do not have mass acceptance and appeal across the state.

The perception is that RJD will strengthen its position. The BJP will maintain its position with 52-53 seats.

The commonly accepted view among strategists is that the BJP and Paswan may align to form a government.

Nitish Kumar and the RJD can also form an alliance because anything is possible in politics as we have seen in Maharashtra.

This election result may throw up a new alliance.

Opinion polls suggest that BJP will emerge as the single largest party.

The BJP's agenda is more suited at the national level. In Bihar, they have not been able to seek a mandate on their own and have always contested less than half seats in an alliance.

They are unable to connect with local issues that is why they lost the previous election despite so many promises by the prime minister.

They do not have a particular chief ministerial face, while other parties have Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav or Chirag Paswan.

Not even Sushil Kumar Modi who has been deputy chief minister?

He doesn't have a following all over the state. He is a leader no doubt, but has some limitation.

Hence, the BJP will depend on manipulation and arithmetic. They can continue with Nitish Kumar or even go with Paswan if his party does well and if Nitish gets far less seats. This may lead to the formation of some new alliances.

You are saying that there is a possibility of the RJD-JD-U coming together after the election?

Any government that will come to power will be an alliance. The question is which alliance will it be?

If a new alliance emerges, it will affect the Centre also. The main characteristic of Bihar politics is that it has always affected Delhi.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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