September 27, 2020

Altering politics of Bihar

THE carefully strategised Ramnavmi celebrations orchestrated to boost the BJP, Nitish Kumar’s meatier half in Bihar’s coalition government, have added to the woes of the man who has had one-too-many allies to be called dependable. The insistence of the Hindutva cadre to plot the Ramnavmi processions through Muslim localities generated the expected friction and would have consolidated the BJP’s vote bank. In the process, however, Sushasan Babu Nitish Kumar’s image as well as political prospects may have taken an irreversible beating. Nitish has often bounced back in the past with a nimble change of allies but his current predicament makes a rerun virtually impossible.

With an impression gaining ground that the Nitish Kumar government allowed itself to be overwhelmed by the BJP, other alliance partners are making their own calculations. In a society fragmented by caste, these smaller parties crucial extra votes bring to the table that make a difference in close contests. The fissures had opened up in the recent byelections which the ruling coalition expectedly tanked. Most of the heartburning among the smaller allies was over the spoils of office. Former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi left the NDA after suspecting a charade played between the BJP and JD (U) to torpedo his claim to a bypoll seat. His discomfort has rubbed on to another ally Upendra Kushwaha and may not leave Ram Vilas Paswan unaffected.

But it is the aggressive mobilisation for Ramnavmi that may be persuading a rethink among both Central Ministers. Their residual minority support has slipped away and the social justice vote bank may be reassessing a return to Lalu Prasad’s RJD. This means an unhealthy dependence on the BJP and their further marginalisation in the existing coalition arrangement. At the core is the BJP’s aggressive blowing of the Hindutva trumpet that has set off counter-mobilisation. The booking of the son of a Union Cabinet Minister (who has blamed his political rivals) for instigating riots is being viewed as Nitish’s attempt to retrieve lost ground but Bihar is now ripe for some very interesting political realignments. However, the person at the helm in Bihar may have become a victim of the polarisation of polity.

Courtesy: The Tribune

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