It is somewhat natural to focus more attention on what is going to happen in Janata Dal (United) as its supremo and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is facing challenge from within and outside. Political commentators have started analyzing as to what would happen to JD(U) if the NDA really loses the Assembly election. But hardly anyone is asking as to what would be the fate of the Bihar unit of the BJP, which is facing a very serious crisis.
May sound unbelievable, nevertheless it is a fact that the saffron party, once known for fighting election in very organised manner, has so far thrown out 45 of its senior leaders, including former ministers, legislators, former MLAs and MLCs and other party functionaries. A sizeable number of them are those who have crossed over to the Lok Janshakti Party and even contesting on its tickets.
Those who are still in the saffron party are divided into two warring factions: one led by deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi while the others are those BJP leaders who are either ministers in the Union cabinet or are not directly or indirectly associated with the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar.
Yet there is another group which is confused and does not know whom to support and whom not. The likes of Union ministers like Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey, who always bay for the blood of Nitish Kumar, have in private always accused Sushil Modi of surrendering the state unit before the Janata Dal United.
Today Sushil Modi faction may have some clout because it is in power in the state. But if the NDA is voted out of power this faction would certainly get weakened. Besides, according to party insiders, Sushil Modi is never in the good book of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. That is why even in 2015 Assembly election SuMo was not made the chief ministerial candidate of the BJP. Instead a senior RSS functionary, Rajendra Singh, was in private projected as the CM face then.
Now Rajendra Singh is contesting election on the LJP ticket and has been kicked out of the party. As the BJP is a national party and is in power at the Centre the ramifications of the Bihar Assembly election would be much deeper.
The anger against Sushil Modi within the BJP has a long history. Its origin can be traced back to those pre-2013 days when Sushil Modi would never hesitate to call Nitish Kumar a prime ministerial material. That was the time when Narendra Modi, as the Gujarat chief minister, had started challenging the leadership of Lal Krishna Advani.
When Nitish observed that the election of Narendra Modi as PM candidate is quite imminent he, on June 16, 2013 snapped ties with the saffron party and sacked all of its 11 ministers in his cabinet. Those who were affected by Nitish’s move were deputy CM Sushil Modi as well as Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey.
While first Giriraj and then Ashwini got inducted into Modi cabinet because of their loyalty to PM SuMo was left in wilderness in Bihar. His luck started favouring after Nitish made homecoming to the NDA on July 26, 2017.
The tragedy with the BJP in Bihar is that of all the Hindi heartland states it is only here that it has not come to power on its own. Even at the peak of its fortune nationally it does not seem that the BJP is on its own going to come to power. The irony is that the media, especially Delhi-based journalists, are overlooking this aspect. They are highlighting that the BJP, under Amit Shah, is trying its level best to play double game and cut Nitish to size.
The truth is something else too. The Bihar BJP is in a disarray and Amit Shah has not visited Bihar even once as he is not in the best of health. Instead he spent a week in his home state Gujarat during Dussehra but didn’t meet any leaders, though by-polls are taking place there.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna)