Leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani were torchbearers of “coalition politics” in India. Be it the Jana Sangh joining hands with the Janata Party to dislodge the mighty Indira Gandhi in the post-emergency era, or Bharatiya Janata Party siding with Vishwanath Pratap Singh, or Vajpayee himself leading a rainbow coalition to form governments not once or twice but thrice; the so-called right-wing party leaders believed in joining hand to forge ahead!
A decade-and-a-half later, right-wing politics sports different colours in the times when the world is witnessing alpha-male politicians’ script new political narratives in their respective countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no different, though he used BJP’s coalition partners efficiently to come to power in 2014. Ever since, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is wobbling, with parties in the grouping getting marginalised or exiting it due to lack of space.
Big Brother BJP
While many smaller parties exited the NDA starting 2014, the NDA lost four major partners in the last two years. The Telugu Desam Party (Andhra Pradesh) was the first to leave the NDA in 2018, followed by the Shiv Sena (Maharashtra), All Jharkhand Students Union (Jharkhand), and recently its time-tested partner the Shiromani Akali Dal (Punjab) parted ways. The biggest allegation made by these four and many others who left the NDA earlier was that they were feeling neglected due to the big brotherly posturing of the BJP, or the attitude of Modi and his man Friday Amit Shah.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who for long was the champion of Samajwadi politics, exited the NDA in 2013-14 when Modi was made the Prime Ministerial face by the BJP. The debacle in the general elections of 2014 and arrest of Lalu Prasad Yadav (of Rashtriya Janata Dal), his coalition partner in the State, compelled the ‘Sushasan Babu’ to seek refuge with Modi and the BJP, and remain in power. Though this alliance is in power for over three years now, it seems to have hit a dead-end now.
The rebel attitude of Lok Janshakti Party-led Chirag Paswan, son of Ram Vilas Paswan, might have a deeper objective than what meets the eye in Bihar. Paswan fielding candidates in all the Assembly constituencies where the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar is contesting and his remarks against the Chief Minister indicate a section does not want the JDU to come to power for a record fourth time.
The silence of the BJP top brass over the politricks of Paswan and his party continuing as a part of the NDA at the Centre tells the story on what is cooking in the State. While a large section of BJP leaders in Bihar might want Nitish Kumar to make way for a BJP Chief Minister, the road might be tougher than anticipated.
The saffron brigade would be hoping that the LJP will cause electoral loss to the JDU, while the BJP would win big in its share of seats. If the BJP wins more seats than the JDU, Nitish Kumar would be forced to make way for a CM from the Right.
Rise of Tejashwi
The JDU and the BJP dreamt of winning the 2020 Assembly elections with ease, and repeatedly stated that the NDA does not have a credible opposition in Bihar. But the well-timed move of Tejashwi Yadav announcing to sign on creation of 10 lakh government jobs on becoming the Chief Minister shifted the momentum in his favour.
The frustrated youth of Bihar, coupled with the fatigue over lacklustre governance of Nitish Kumar for 15 years, is prodding the average voter to opt for young Tejashwi. Going by the mood in Bihar and looking at ordinary voters chanting the mantra of change, even in public meetings addressed by Nitish Kumar himself, danger bells are ringing for the JDU-BJP alliance.
Last Ditch Efforts
Making a last-ditch effort, Nitish Kumar and Modi tried to bring in an emotional quotient into the campaign. While Nitish Kumar called this his last election and requested people to vote for him one last time, Modi wrote a four-page letter seeking votes. A closer look at the letter tells there is nothing new in it apart from what he already said in his 12 election rallies during the Bihar campaign.
With polling coming to end, many are speculating that the sun has already set on Nitish Kumar’s regime. But the story does not end here! Modi’s BJP would now aspire to emerge as the ‘party number one’ in Bihar and would like its partners — JDU, LJP and others – to play their limited roles.
Nitish Kumar is the last big non-BJP face in the NDA, and his defeat will change the alliance once and for all. While the BJP is all about the Modi-Shah duo, the same will be the fate of the NDA now.
Post-November 10th, the day results are out, politics in the country is likely to take a new turn. If the BJP emerges as the single largest party and takes a shot at power with the support from other partners, then there is no stopping the party’s “Ek Cholo Re” attitude. On the other hand, a defeat might compel the Modi-Shah duo to relook at their method of doing politics not just in Bihar, but across the country.
There is a school of thought, which indicates that States get what is rightfully due to them only when there is a coalition government in New Delhi. And going back to the era where representation from all regions gets due respect is surely not a bad idea. However, showing large-heartedness might save the day for Modi and the BJP.
(The author is a political communications specialist)
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