Ahead of 2020 Bihar polls, tamed BJP suits Nitish well

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. (PTI Photo)

The developments in Maharashtra, where the BJP has been left with eggs on its face, have apparently made many of its allies happier. Though publicly, no alliance partner has made any disparaging remarks against the saffron camp, in private, the leader of the Janata Dal (United), ruling Bihar in alliance with the BJP, can’t hide their glee.

“After all, someone had to rein in the Big Bull,” was their common refrain in an oblique reference to how NCP chief Sharad Pawar upstaged the BJP duo: Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, single-handedly.

Keeping realpolitik in mind, no alliance partner has spoken against the BJP, but it’s equally true none of them were happy over the BJP’s highhanded attitude over the last few years. Nitish, in particular, was never fond of Narendra Modi. Neither before 2013. Nor after 2017 when he re-joined hands with the BJP. In fact, he severed his 17-year-old ties with the BJP in June 2013 once it was clear that the saffron camp would project Modi as the prime ministerial candidate for 2014 parliamentary polls.

Nitish may have publicly said that JD (U) and BJP would together contest the Bihar Assembly polls, slated for November 2020, but deep within, he too knows the BJP would not allow him to be Bihar CM again. “Why should BJP always play second fiddle to Nitish? It’s true that Amit Shah has said that the next year Assembly elections in Bihar will be contested under the leadership of Nitish, but one year is too long a period. In politics, situation changes dramatically in short span,” a senior BJP legislator told Deccan Herald.

However, the JD (U) feels Maharashtra mess should teach BJP a lesson or two. “Of late, the BJP has been riding high, with the sole aim of either putting its opponents behind bars or denigrating its rivals. However, it should now focus on ‘tikau’ (trusted) friends, not ‘bikau’ (who could be bought). Secondly, there is a difference between the Lok Sabha poll and Assembly elections. Nitish had shown in 2015 how BJP could be decimated in Bihar despite aggressive campaigning by Modi and Shah. Now that BJP has been ‘tamed’ a bit, it suits Nitish well. Ahead of the next year’s Assembly election, Nitish will now be able to bargain properly and extract his pound of flesh without much bickering with a weakened ally,” said a senior ruling party leader who has worked closely with Nitish as well as BJP.

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