Nitish in a bind

BJP president Amit Shah acceding to the demand of JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar to let him contest 17 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections has not come as surprise. Even before the seat sharing process began, it was known that BJP would not engage Nitish on this issue; instead it would settle down to his demands.
The major challenge before both the parties is the availability of winnable candidates. Both are facing a serious crisis in this regard. The situation has deteriorated after the drubbing of the BJP in the assembly elections in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
Even sitting members are scared of going for a second term under Narendra Modi. The BJP has a plan to drop five sitting Lok Sabha members, including Shatrughan Sinha and Kirti Azad. But surprisingly some senior leaders believe that in view of the complicated situation the party may not axe Sinha. Some of the leaders viewed as probable replacements to Modi are in favour of his contesting as BJP candidate. It is said that their voices carry weight with Sangh. But on his part Sinha has already been exploring alternatives and in all probability would be the opposition candidate from Patna.
Amit Shah and Nitish may have given a concrete shape to the alliance, but the fact remains that it is not enduring. Barring seven seats, Nitish is not finding suitable candidates for the other ten seats. Nitish has set his eyes on the rebels of Congress and the RJD. He has already his supporters in RJD in the form of Tejpratap. The delicate BJP situation could be realised from Amit Shah conceding to Ramvilas Paswan’s demand for a Rajya Sabha seat. The compulsion of winning over the dalits votes has forced him to present Paswan as NDA’s dalit face. Obviously his demand ought to be accepted.
More or less the same reason applies to Nitish. Over the years Nitish has lost much of his credibility. Otherwise too Nitish cannot win an election on his own. He always needs an ally. In view his vulnerability, he needs to continue in alliance with the BJP. The rape and killings of girls in the shelter homes have completely eroded the trustworthiness of Nitish. These homes had become entertainment hubs for the powerful people in Bihar politics.
It was very important for the BJP to keep Nitish and Paswan in Bihar after Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samtaa Party decided to break away. Under the formula, BJP and the JD(U) will contest 17 seats each and the LJP six seats. NDA will also nominate LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan to the Rajya Sabha.
Trouble has been brewing in the LSP of Paswan and BJP on the issue of seat sharing well before the assembly elections in five states. But the scenario changed, with RJD leader Tejashwi openly inviting both LJP and RLSP to join the UPA. On December 18, Paswan’s son Chirag had tweeted that “BJP should respectfully address the concerns of the remaining NDA partners well in time”. While RLSP quit NDA, the LJP was chalking out its strategy.
All eyes are now on RJD and especially Tejashvi. But if sources are to believed, he is treading cautiously as he has enemies all around. The RJD no doubt will contest major seats, but will also not antagonise other partners. Tejashvi realises the trap laid by NDA. In a strange development the BJP is also trying to accommodate two arch rivals of Nitish. Arun Kumar a sitting member was with RLSP, but left the company of Kushwaha. The other leader is Pappu Yadav, the Robinhood MP, elected as the RJD candidate. His wife is a Congress member.
RJD has to accommodate Sharad Yadav, Kushwaha, Sahni and Jitanram Manjhi. This has prompted leaders to believe that BSP-SP will go it alone.

Tuesday, 8 January, 2019