Caught in a peculiar situation, BJP set to redraw its Bihar strategy

Chirag Paswan of LJP, an ally of the JD-U-led ruling NDA, has made it clear that his party will fight against Nitish

(From L) Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Lok Janshakti Party President Chirag Paswan and Union Home Minister Amit Shah

The BJP is driven back to the drawing board for its Bihar poll strategy as Chirag Paswan-led LJP has decided to go it alone in the assembly polls, putting up candidates against the Nitish Kumar-led JD-U, the key partner in the NDA.

Chirag has presented a peculiar situation for the BJP – while his LJP will fight the JD-U, it will spare the BJP in the polls for the 243-member Assembly. The BJP and JD-U have shared almost an equal number of 121-122 seats. The BJP is stated to share its allotted seats with LJP, which in effect would mean allowing the LJP to fight against its own ally, the JD-U.

Top BJP leaders, including Bihar in-charge Devendra Fadnavis and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, are slated to meet in Delhi at party chief JP Nadda’s home.

On Sunday (October 4), Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nadda and other top leaders in the party’s central election panel held discussions on Bihar seats and candidates.

Chirag Paswan had announced on October 4 that he would not contest the polls as part of the National Democratic Alliance, asserting that it had a problem with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar even though there was “no bitterness” with the BJP.

Related news: LJP not to take NDA boat, but to support BJP, fight JD(U)

Chirag Paswan, whose father Ram Vilas Paswan is a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, said his party and the BJP would form government after the Bihar election.

Many believe Chirag Paswan’s move, which followed two meetings with the BJP leadership in Delhi, has the tacit blessings of the BJP in its ‘Plan B’ to keep ally Nitish Kumar in check. That no BJP leader has reacted or posted on the move targeting Nitish Kumar even 12 hours later, has reinforced the speculation. The BJP leadership has firmly endorsed Nitish Kumar as the NDA’s leader for the polls.

The LJP, which claims a strong Dalit vote-base, has followed a similar strategy in the past elections. In 2005, the party contested against ally RJD, preventing Lalu Prasad’s party from winning another term. The election resulted in a hung assembly and in subsequent polls, Nitish Kumar won enough seats to form government.

Chirag has frequently attacked Nitish Kumar over the past few months. He openly criticized the Chief Minister’s handling of the coronavirus and the migrant crisis. Kumar’s move to bring to the NDA former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader like the Paswans with a similar support base, worsened the feud.

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