August 12, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether Nitish Kumar’s breakup with BJP will hurt the latter’s chances in 2024. We also look at AAP’s poll promise for women in Gujarat, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Bihar Political Drama – Should The BJP Worry About 2024?
The concept of time can seem warped and distorted when it comes to politics. While 2024 is a ways away, it’s never too late to plan ahead in politics. For India, 2024 holds significance as it’s when the next general elections are scheduled. The ongoing political saga in Bihar could have an impact.
Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar ended his alliance with the BJP. For him and his former alliance partners, the BJP, there’s a lot of political calculus that will probably happen from now till 2024. The question is, who comes out of this saga on top? Is Nitish Kumar in a prime position to take on the BJP nationally? Should the BJP be worried? Or will it use this opportunity to mobilise and come back stronger?
Only a few weeks ago were all political eyes fixated on Maharashtra as the Udhav Thackeray government collapsed thanks to Eknath Shinde and his rebel faction of the Shiv Sena. Now, we turn our attention to Bihar. Nitish Kumar took the oath as Chief Minister for the 8th time after declaring a new alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and other opposition parties.
As stated earlier, time can flow differently in politics, and things can change in a few days. That’s what happened in Bihar, though some would say it’s a long time coming. It all began with JD(U) MPs and MLAs meeting at Kumar’s residence on August 9. At the same time, MLAs of the opposition RJD were also meeting.
In the afternoon, the RJD-led alliance comprising the Congress and the Left met and signed a letter of support for Nitish Kumar. The JD(U) hails Kumar for his leadership of a new coalition. After submitting his resignation letter to the Governor, Kumar meets with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. By sunset, Kumar had the support he needed to stake claim to form a new government.
Relations between the BJP and JD(U) soured recently due to disagreements on several issues. Among them were a proposed population control law, the caste census, the demand for special category status for Bihar, and the controversial Agnipath recruitment scheme. In June, sixty train coaches and property worth ₹700 crores were damaged by those protesting the Agnipath scheme.
Kumar’s political journey has been an interesting but tumultuous one. It began by being elected to the Bihar Assembly as an independent candidate in 1985. From 1987 to 1989, he was the general secretary of the Janata Dal in Bihar. He’s not averse to alliances. In 1996, he was part of the BJP-led alliance when the Samata Party, which he and George Fernandes created after breaking away from the Janata Dal, joined the NDA. He even served in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in various capacities. Later on, he merged the Samata Party and Janata Dal to create the current Janata Dal (United).
His relationship with Lalu Prasad Yadav has had its ups and downs. But in May this year, there were signs of a revival when Kumar walked a short distance to Yadav’s son Tejaswhi Yadav’s house for an Iftaar party.
Bihar is an important state for both JD(U) and BJP. It has a total of 243 seats. A coalition or a single party needs 122 seats to form the government. The RJD has 79 seats, the BJP 77, the JD(U) 45, and Congress 19. Safe to say, he had the numbers on his side.
For now, the BJP doesn’t have much to work with, and it’s a waiting game. Ahead of the oath-taking ceremony, the party staged protests in Patna.
Now the question arises, what’s next? Is this a temporary setback for the BJP? Or are they in trouble on the national stage with Nitish Kumar looming large?
VIEW: Reasons to worry
There’s no doubt about it, Nitish Kumar’s exit from the alliance and forming the new government hurt the BJP. The timing is striking, considering it comes in the aftermath of what happened in Maharashtra. Any hopes of deja vu were quickly squashed. Whatever the BJP had in store, they weren’t as deft as Kumar and his political instincts. In the short term, the BJP will have to depend more on non-aligned parties for votes in the Rajya Sabha.
As journalist Arati Jerath put it, the Bihar BJP might be displaying some overconfidence to outwit Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav. The party’s Bihar leaders are worried. Bihar has a caste-driven political landscape. It won’t be easy to take down the Nitish-Lalu-Tejashwi alliance. While the BJP might try to portray the new alliance as unstable and corrupt, they might be underestimating the three political heavyweights’ ability to spin a counter-narrative.
So, what happens in 2024? Nitish Kumar asked the same question, wondering if the BJP will return to power in two years. For Kumar, it’s a way to get back at the BJP for what happened in 2015-16. In the 2015 elections, Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav teamed up to defeat the BJP. Less than a year later, their alliance ended thanks to the BJP.
Political observers see Kumar as someone who is the opposite of the BJP. He isn’t the most religious political leader around. He has a socialist lineage and isn’t beholden to corporate lobbies. If he is to present himself as a leader in 2024, he has a narrative to draw upon.
COUNTERVIEW: Political opportunism
Nitish Kumar’s move can be seen as a prime example of political opportunism. It was merely that the right puzzle pieces fell into place at the right time. This wasn’t necessarily a shrewd political calculus. He isn’t someone who has built up a strong party organisation, certainly not compared to Lalu Prasad Yadav.
But it would be unwise for the opposition to relax. Now, the BJP is no longer tied to an uneasy alliance. What could follow is a crisis of institutions. The BJP’s narrative will portray the alliance as unstable and corrupt. In the short term, it may not pay dividends. However, it will tame the regional parties and hamper their political ambitions. The use of the CBI and ED to expose alleged corruption and rhetoric of cleaning up the system could be potent.
While not averse to alliances, Kumar isn’t one to keep things stable in the long run. In 2000, he resigned after just seven days as Chief Minister since he couldn’t prove his numbers with the BJP as his ally in the NDA. He then partnered with the BJP in 2005 and 2010, and things seemed good. Then in 2013, he gave them the cold shoulder after being upset that Modi was named the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
The BJP seems unfazed by everything that’s happened. It seems the BJP was aware of the discussions Kumar was having with the other parties. Now, the BJP is the sole opposition in the state. It’s counting on the growing anti-incumbency in the state. Jaideep Mazumdar explains that the party has gained popularity among OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits. There’s also the growing consolidation of the Hindu vote, something the BJP can always rely on.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The BJP has reasons to worry in the aftermath of developments in Bihar.
b) The BJP needn’t worry in the aftermath of developments in Bihar.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Dealing With Freebies: As India Needs Food Subsidy Reforms, Modi Can Take A Cue From Vajpayee
For the Left:
Bihar: A Lesson For Congress In Politics
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Yadav vote bank (Uttar Pradesh) – The BJP is not resting on its laurels. Ahead of the 2024 elections, the party is working to secure the support of the Yadav vote bank, who are significant in India’s most populous state. Part of their outreach was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual speech at an event marking the 10th death anniversary of Chaudhary Harmohan Singh Yadav. His influence grew as Mulayam Singh became Chief Minister in 1989. Part of the BJP’s plan is to wrestle support away from the SP and even get some leaders into the fold.
Why it matters: Yadavs make up about 9-10% of the state’s population. According to the BJP, many youngsters of the community are deserting the SP as they don’t like its caste-based politics. However, the SP has dismissed these claims. From independence till the mid-1970s, Congress dominated the UP political landscape. Due to the Green Revolution, the Yadavs and other castes began to challenge Congress. Over the past two decades, the Yadavs have made their mark electorally.
Cases of amputations (Kerala) – According to the Vascular Society of Kerala (VASK), there are about 20-25 amputations in the state every day. Analysis by VASK showed that half of the amputees either lose the other leg or die of heart disease. It also showed that about 80% of the amputations are unnecessary since new treatments are available. Most of the amputees were between the ages of 40 to 50.
Why it matters: Research shows that in most cases, damaged legs can be salvaged. Not only will it be better for the patient, but it’s also cost-effective. However, many patients hastily opt for amputation due to not having all the information and incomplete medical advice from some doctors. Many amputees also struggle due to a lack of social support.
Congress leaders resign (Odisha) – 30 Congress leaders, including some former state office bearers, have resigned from the party. They criticised the party for moving away from its ideals and policies in the State. They also said the party’s leadership in the state hadn’t done anything to inspire confidence among the party cadre. They said there’s no internal democracy in the party. The dissidents targeted the newly appointed president of the Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC), Sarat Pattanayak, for allegedly joining with the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
Why it matters: The resignations have dealt a blow to the party’s revival in the state. The resignations are seen as a reaction against Pattanayak’s appointment. However, he said the resignations wouldn’t have an impact on the party’s functioning in Odisha. The Congress and the BJD rejected Amit Shah’s assertion that the BJP will form the next government in the state.
AAP’s poll promise to women (Gujarat) – Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Chief Arvind Kejriwal announced that if his party is voted into power in the state, the government would provide financial support of ₹1,000 per month to every woman above 18 years. In announcing this scheme, he said it was not a freebie as the money was the people’s. Speaking at a town hall, he said this is the fifth guarantee for women the AAP has announced. He hit out at Prime Minister Modi for his comments on freebies.
Why it matters: The state goes to the polls for assembly elections later this year. Kejriwal is hoping to make an impact by visiting the state and holding rallies. He’s also making a concerted push to woo traders, small businessmen, and industrialists. He gave five guarantees to the business community, including simplifying GST and clearing pending VAT rebates within six months.
North East Olympics Games (Meghalaya) – The state will host the upcoming North East Olympics Games which will begin on October 30 and end on November 6 at Shillong. Sports & Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh said the sporting events selected for the Games were based on the existing infrastructure available and on the advice of the Meghalaya State Olympic Association (MSOA). The games will be held as Meghalaya celebrates its 50th year of statehood.
Why it matters: The first games saw 2,000 athletes competing across 12 disciplines. This year, about 4,000 athletes will compete across 18 Olympic sports disciplines. The first Games was held in Manipur in 2018. The second edition in Arunachal Pradesh couldn’t go ahead as scheduled due to the pandemic.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
7% – India’s projected average GDP growth rate for 2022-23, according to Morgan Stanley. This could make India the fastest-growing Asian economy during this period.