Can JD(U) be the big brother in Bihar?

New Delhi: Following massive loss of the BJP and its allies in the recently concluded by-polls across 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) is trying to portray itself as a party above the second fiddle role to the saffron party in Bihar.

After the JD(U) meeting held at Nitish’s house on Sunday, JD(U) general secretary Pavan Varma said that the Bihar CM is the face of BJP-led NDA citing that his party is the largest constituent of the alliance in Bihar.

Several other JD(U) leaders including KC Tyagi echoed similar sentiments about Nitish being the biggest leader of Bihar.

However, during the last weeks by-polls, Rashtriya Janata Dal snatched the Jokihat Assembly seat from the JD(U) and registered victory by a huge margin of over 41,000 votes.

This meeting assumes significance as the BJP-led NDA, which the JD(U) joined in August 2017, is also scheduled to hold a meeting in Bihar on June 7. During the NDA meeting, to be attended by Kumar, the coalition partners are likely to discuss their strategy in the state for the next Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile, the BJP has downplayed the comments from JD(U) leaders, insisting that there is no dispute.

“Jab dil mil gaye (When hearts have connected), seats are no big deal. Who will contest how many seats in elections, all this will be decided after we sit together for our meeting,” senior Bihar BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi said.

What’s in store for BJP- JD(U) relationship?

Post internal meeting on Sunday, JD(U) leader Ajay Alok said that his party used to contest 25 seats, while the BJP settled for 15, in a clear reference to the 2009 general elections where NDA comprising of BJP and JD(U), secured 32 out of 40 seats in a landslide win.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, JD(U) parted ways with the NDA and were restricted to two seats, while the BJP bagged a whopping 22 out of total 40 seats.

Now, that the JD(U) is paving its way back into NDA, after its exit from the Congress-RJD alliance and patch-up with BJP at the assembly level, they are trying to exert their importance at the national level owing to its position in Bihar Assembly.

The JD(U) believes that its share should be far higher than the two seats they hold right now as at the state level JD(U)’s 70 legislators top BJP’s 50.

The only catch this time is that the NDA had incorporated Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) into the fold during the 2014 elections and they are still a part of the alliance.

Currently, the LJP and RSLP hold six and three seats, respectively, as a result of their 2014 wins.

With BJP leaders in Bihar claiming that Nitish’s party could be allotted maximum of 15-16 seats this time, it is most likely that JD(U) won’t reclaim their older share in presence of LJP and RLSP this time.

JD(U) Vs BJP: Who’s the boss?

  • Over the last decade, six elections have been held in Bihar – 2004 Lok Sabha, 2005 Vidhan Sabha, 2009 Lok Sabha, 2010 Vidhan Sabha, 2014 Lok Sabha and 2015 Vidhan Sabha.
  • As per IndiaSpend report in 2017, during this period, of every 100 Bihari voters, roughly 37 voted only for the BJP, 30 only for Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, no more than 17 only for the JD(U), and ten only for the INC.
  • These statistics suggest Nitish Kumar’s popularity has not been reflected by electoral numbers but he has still managed to hold the Bihar CM’s seat since 2005 due to his manoeuvre of electoral alliances.
  • The report also highlights that BJP’s support in Bihar has been the most stable (37-39%).
  • Contrary to Nitish’s popularity, the study showed that only17 of 100 Biharis voted for him alone.
  • To delve further, there are 55 assembly constituencies in Bihar that had a JD(U) candidate in each of four elections between 2009 and 2015. In these 55 constituencies, only 22% of the voters chose JD(U) when it contested alone, but when it allied with either the BJP or the RJD, 43% chose the JD(U). In other words, a large number of Biharis vote for the JD(U) only when it is in an alliance.

As the numbers suggest that JD(U)’s majority in the 2015 Assembly elections could have been the result of their alliance with the Congress and RJD, which Nitish opted out of and joined forces with the BJP. Amidst all of these factors, a complex bargain game between BJP and JD(U) is likely to transpire in the NDA meeting on June 7, wherein JD(U) could flex its muscle with the state numbers but could be pushed back by BJP which would be well aware of Nitish’s lack at flying solo.