In early Bihar leads, the BJP appeared to zoom ahead of partner Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister who is the face of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in this election. The leads indicated that Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United was dragging down the NDA’s numbers.
The BJP has always played second fiddle in Bihar, especially to Nitish Kumar. Bihar is the only Hindi belt state where the BJP has never held the Chief Minister’s post.
But if the trend continues, this result may deprive Nitish Kumar of Big Brother status in the alliance.
This time round, the Bihar campaign was prickly for the allies.
In 2015, Nitish Kumar had fought with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Yadav and Congress. Two years before that, he had broken off ties with long-time ally BJP over its projection of Narendra Modi as prime ministerial candidate.
Nitish Kumar held out when the BJP came to power at the centre with a massive mandate for Narendra Modi.
But his alliance with the RJD and Congress soured quickly and in the middle of 2017, he resigned, dumped his partners and reembraced the BJP.
In his recapitulation and acceptance of PM Modi’s leadership, Nitish Kumar lost his sheen. But despite kinks, the reunited NDA carried on for three more years.
Along the way, the BJP repeatedly dismissed speculation that it was trying to discard Nitish Kumar and insisted that Nitish Kumar was the NDA’s chief ministerial candidate.
However, NDA ally Chirag Paswan spoilt the picture again by announcing a solo battle with the single purpose of defeating Nitish Kumar. Chirag Paswan maintained throughout that he remained devoted to PM Modi and hoped to form a government with the BJP sans Nitish Kumar. He was even heard in rallies appealing for votes either for PM Modi or his own Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
To Nitish Kumar’s chagrin, counters to Chirag Paswan only came from the Bihar BJP. The silence of the top leadership in Delhi and its refusal to tell off young Paswan indicated that he was definitely the BJP’s Plan B.
A section of the BJP in Bihar has been upset about the spillover effect of anger against Nitish Kumar over jobs, the migrants crisis and the handling of the coronavirus.
But it is Chirag Paswan who seems to be doing most damage to Nitish Kumar’s party. He had put up candidates in all seats being contested by the JDU.