Trouble is growing fast for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar as he gets largely dependent on the BJP vote-bank, slowly but surely. The poor performance of his party, the JD-U, on two seats in Delhi which he contested in alliance with the BJP—first such alliance in over a decade outside Bihar—speaks volumes about how Nitish failed to leave his impact on migrant Bihari voters. While the JD-U lost the Burari seat by over 88,000 votes, the margin of loss was over 42,000 in Sangam Vihar.
After a long spell of troubled relationship since he returned to the NDA two years back, Nitish had entered into an alliance with the BJP outside Bihar for the first time in over a decade this time with a hope to make his presence in the national capital. However, the alliance for just a couple of seats came with a price as the JD-U had to get rid of its two top leaders—poll strategist and party vice-president Prashant Kishor and diplomat-cum-national general secretary Pavan Kumar Varma. Both the leaders had been strongly criticizing the contentious new Citizenship law passed by the BJP government at the Centre and supported by the JD-U but Nitish continued ignoring them until the BJP agreed to forge an alliance with the JD-U for Delhi polls.
A close analysis of the JD-U performance on the two seats explains Nitish has not gained by his move, rather he lost his support base among the Muslim community which supported him in the past despite the JD-U being allied to the BJP. The BJP wanted to lure the Bihar migrants settled in large numbers in Delhi by engaging the Bihar chief minister in the Delhi poll campaigns. He addressed a few rallies too, sharing dais with the present and former BJP presidents. Yet, his party candidates ended by losing both the seats by a huge margin which amply indicated it was mostly the BJP core voters which voted for the JD-U candidates while the Bihari migrants and Muslims ignored.
“The poll outcome is a dangerous signal for Nitish Kumar as he failed to prove his worth for the BJP although the latter too flopped,” says a political commentator. According to him, Nitish’s flip-flops on various issues have cost him dear and no community trusts him right now. Initially, the JD-U had strongly opposed the issues like abrogation of Article 370, triple talaq bill and Citizenship Bill but when they were brought in the parliament, the JD-U happily supported all of them.
Nitish’s helplessness had got reflected during the April-May 2019 LS elections too when he sought votes in the name of PM Modi’s image, Balakot strike, surgical strikes, and demonetisation drive. Nitish remained mysteriously silent even when the BJP constantly raised the controversial issues like Vande Matram and beef. This amply explained how the chief minister and his party are getting too much dependent on the BJP’s vote-bank as the Muslims disown them almost entirely.
Experts say the development could spell serious trouble for Nitish as the BJP may not give him too many seats to contest in the coming assembly elections in Bihar scheduled later this year. “The BJP has been using Nitish only to divide the secular votes but now that Muslims have already dumped his party, he fails to serve any purpose for the BJP. Why would the BJP give him too many seats to get JD-U to win elections at its own cost?” asked a political expert wishing not to be named.