With just a few days left to go for the first round of polling in Bihar, BJP leadership has suddenly gone into overdrive in asserting that no one else but Nitish Kumar will be the next Chief Minister of Bihar. Everyone from senior BJP leader and former party chief Amit Shah, to senior BJP leader of party's Bihar unit Sushil Modi, to party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav, has over the past one week unambiguously stated that no matter who, between BJP and JD(U), gets more seats, the one thing that's certain upon NDA's victory is Nitish Kumar becoming Bihar's next Chief Minister.
On October 16, Sushil Modi in an interview to a leading media organisation, said that Nitish Kumar will be the chief minister irrespective of which between BJP and JD(U) gets more seats. On October 17 Amit Shah in an interview to News18 said Nitish Kumar will be the next Chief Minister "no ifs and buts about it". On the same day the party's general secretary Bhupendra Yadav in a tweet said, "BJP is very clear, LJP is not a part of our alliance. We want to tell Chirag Paswan that he should not harbour an illusion. BJP-JD(U) are fighting the election and Nitish Kumar ji will be the chief minister."
Though it is true that LJP chief Chirag Paswan has muddied the water by declaring war against JD(U)'s tallest leader, Nitish Kumar, while at the same declaring to be the Hanuman of Narendra Modi, the tallest leader of the BJP, which is in alliance with JD(U). But are the repeated clarifications by the BJP leadership an attempt to placate its alliance partner and to remove any confusion among the party cadre at the ground level? Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, a senior political analyst who has seen Bihar politics from up close for the past several years thinks so.
"From BJP's point of view it was necessary to remove confusion on the ground that was created by Chirag Paswan. The confusion was not just a potential threat to JD(U)'s votes but to NDA's votes also. There could be many BJP voters who may have voted against Nitish Kumar unless there was clarity on the ground. I think Amit Shah's statements should end the confusion now and help both the BJP and JD(U)," said Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, former Patna University teacher and political analyst.
If still a confusion persists on the ground, a rally by Narendra Modi — which are said to be 12 so far — should put an absolute end to all rumours, Kishore added.
"The thing is BJP cannot afford to see a repeat of Maharashtra, and lose their primary alliance partner because of mistrust between the two parties. BJP is under pressure on many national issues. Their ally in Punjab has also deserted them. At this point, BJP is playing a 'no risk no gain' game. They just want to retain what they have without disturbing the status quo much. So as they go deeper into the polls BJP is bound to make their alliance with Nitish Kumar absolutely clear," Kishore added. BJP is also seemingly on the backfoot after facing anger from at least a section of Dalit community over the gang-rape and murder of the 19 year-old Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras.
The other prevalent view on the subject is provided by social scientist and retired academic Sachindra Narayan. According to the counterview, the rumours that LJP and Plurals Party is being propped up by the BJP to cut Nitish Kumar's JD(U) to size, isn't put to rest by BJP's recent posturing. These 'clarifications', Narayan argues, are open to interpretation. You see what you want to see.
"Kaun keh sakta hai ki unki mansha bhram hatane ki hai ki bhram badhaane ki [Who can be sure whether BJP wants to dispel the confusion or promote it]?" wondered Narayan. "The manner in which BJP says that 'Nitish will be the next CM' suggests that they're more than confident of winning the polls. If that were the case why did they ally with him? Why is Modi holding so many rallies?" asked Narayan.
What is undeniable is that BJP would want to maintain distance from its alliance partner Nitish Kumar who also carries with him 15 years of anti-incumbency, as well as the anger of the migrant labourers who have still not left their villages for cities and towns again; those who had to walk close to 2000 kms from Wayanad, say, to reach Darbhanga, and those who were affected by floods that struck hundreds of Bihar's villages two months ago.