With Assembly elections due in less than 20 days, Bihar BJP today expelled the eight rebels who quit to join Chirag Paswan’s LJP over the past week. Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, the BJP’s senior-most leader in the state and who last week warned the rebels to “come back to the fold or be expelled”, also declared that the LJP is not part of the NDA in Bihar.
Speaking in Patna on Monday, Mr Modi, who had so far refrained from naming the LJP even as the relationship between Mr Paswan and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar becomes increasingly frosty, said only the BJP, the JDU, former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and the VIP of Mukesh Sahni were part of the NDA, and could contest the election under that banner.
“If we get a majority, then only Nitish Kumar will be Chief Minister. There should be no confusion on that front,” Mr Modi said, repeating, for good measure, that the BJP was solidly behind Nitish Kumar in his bid to become a six-term Chief Minister.
The statement by Mr Modi comes as the BJP moves to reassure Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had been left upset by the party’s apparent refusal to act against Chirag Paswan and his targeting of the Chief Minister and his ruling JDU.
Mr Paswan, whose LJP is a member of the NDA at the centre and whose father Ram Vilas Paswan was a Union Minister till his death on Thursday, earlier said he would not contest the election with the Chief Minister’s JDU but claimed that his LJP remained a “strong” partner of the BJP.
The JDU, meanwhile, reportedly is unconvinced that Chirag Paswan, who has made no secret of his ambition to become chief minister, can get away with so many infractions without the tacit blessing of the BJP’s senior leadership.
The statement and the expelling of the rebels, the BJP will hope, will also serve as a warning to any others who might be contemplating something similar – a turn of events that could lead to further loss of face with the JDU and, materially, weaken its return in this month’s election.
Sushil Kumar Modi also reminded NDA workers in the state of what BJP President JP Nadda said on Sunday; Mr Nadda, in his first campaign speech, praised Nitish Kumar’s governance and worked him into the “Modi hai to mumkin hai (If there is Modi, then it is possible)” slogan that the BJP used ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Nitish Kumar is synonymous with the development of Bihar, all of which has taken place in the 15 years that the NDA has been in power in the state, Mr Modi said.
Elections for Bihar’s 243-seat Assembly will begin October 28 and be spread over three phases. Results are due November 3.
The JDU-BJP alliance has agreed a 122-121 seat-sharing deal, with the VIP getting 11 seats from the BJP’s share and the HAM getting seven from the JDU.