Bihar: BJP trying to rope in smaller parties to take on Nitish-Lalu combine in 2024
The BJP is taking steps to put its bruised house in order in politically crucial Bihar, where it is trying to bring together former allies back into its fold and also wooing families that have distanced themselves in recent times.
With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JDU and the RJD led by Lalu Prasad Yadav joining hands to check the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state, the BJP remains the only big party not aligned with any major political force in Bihar.
The BJP is now looking at smaller political parties to match the electoral base of Nitish and Lalu, who form a considerable alliance not counting a third key ally, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI-ML.
When political heavyweights Lalu and Nitish contested together in the 2015 assembly elections, the two mopped up over 55 per cent of the votes for the Grand Alliance. The Congress, which once ruled Bihar, has been reduced to a small player in the state.
Realising the mammoth task of politically and electorally defeating Lalu and Nitish, the BJP leadership is trying to impress upon the two factions of the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP) to end their family feud and join hands for the general elections.
In the last assembly elections, the RJD emerged the single largest party while the JDU, which had an alliance with BJP, came a distant third. While the Congress badly let down the RJD, the CPI-ML gave a much better performance.
Senior BJP leaders have already made four attempts to bring together Union cabinet minister Pashupati Kumar Paras and his estranged nephew Chirag Paswan, the son of former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
“There is no doubt that the BJP leadership has asked us several times that my leader Pashupati Kumar Paras and Chirag Paswan should come together and end their differences. The problem here is that the differences are not political, but within the family. In politics, people work together even when there are political differences but it is difficult to work together when differences are within the family,” said Sanjay Saraf, a senior leader of LJSP.
Saraf said that during the BJP leadership’s attempts to initiate a conversation about a patch-up with Chirag Paswan, the Union minister has categorically told the BJP not to interfere in the affairs of the family.
“BJP is the bigger partner in the alliance between LJSP and BJP, so they are free to do what they want. We cannot dictate terms to them. The BJP leadership is very experienced, and they can choose to join hands with Chirag Paswan if they want. We have nothing to say in this matter,” added Saraf.
Senior leaders of the LJSP have told the BJP that Chirag Paswan is also holding talks with the RJD for an alliance. Both Chirag Paswan and Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar, often meet.
“There is not much time for Chirag Paswan to decide if he is with the NDA or Grand Alliance. I think he is in a bit of confusion and is unable to decide. If he wants to make an impact and wants people to take him seriously, he will have to choose sides soon. He cannot afford to wait for long,” said a senior RJD leader.
The decision to bring together the warring factions of the LJSP again is also a move by the BJP to consolidate the Dalit votes. The Scheduled Caste (SC) comprise 16 per cent of the population. The community has the power to define the outcome of elections if it tilts in favour of a political alliance.
In order to secure the Dalit voter base, the BJP has managed to rope in former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on its side again. His Hindustani Awam Morcha or HAM is now part of the NDA. The BJP believes that if both Paswan and Manjhi become part of the NDA, the alliance will have a fighting chance against the combination of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav.
The BJP is also talking to Mukesh Sahni, who leads a political party with the support of his Mallah community (boatmen), who are part of the EBC (Economically Backward Classes). The EBC community is the support base of Nitish Kumar. The BJP is trying to take away a part of that base. “Mukesh Sahni is with BJP in Bihar. He has always been with the BJP,” the RJD leader added.
The BJP, its leaders say, is particularly keen on derailing the JDU as Nitish has emerged as a glue for Opposition parties trying to forge a nationwide alliance against Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the next year’s Lok Sabha elections.