With the BJP having garnered 74 seats in the election as against the JD(U)’s 43, the former party is now unquestionably the big brother
Sushil Kumar Modi, arguably the Bharatiya Janata Party’s most recognisable face in Bihar, is known to share a close rapport with Nitish Kumar, and has even been referred to as the JD(U) chief’s “Lakshman.” Now, with Modi not expected to return as deputy chief minister, it appears that the BJP has taken the position that the time for such brotherly camaraderie is past.
Modi himself gave an indication of things to come as he tweeted, “What I have gained from the BJP and Sangh Parivar in the past 40 years is perhaps more than anyone else. In the future as well, I will carry out whichever responsibility is given to me. No one can take away the post of a karyakarta from me.”
भाजपा एवं संघ परिवार ने मुझे ४० वर्षों के राजनीतिक जीवन में इतना दिया की शायद किसी दूसरे को नहीं मिला होगा।आगे भी जो ज़िम्मेवारी मिलेगी उसका निर्वहन करूँगा।कार्यकर्ता का पद तो कोई छीन नहीं सकता।
— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) November 15, 2020
Nitish Kumar will on Monday return as Bihar chief minister for the fourth consecutive time, and the state is likely to get two deputy chief ministers — BJP’s Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, according to Times Now. While Prasad has been chosen as the leader of the BJP’s legislature party in Bihar, Devi has been chosen as the deputy leader.
The sidelining of Sushil Kumar Modi is an early indication of the shifting power balance between the BJP and JD(U). With the saffron party having garnered 74 seats in the election as against the JD(U)’s 43, the former party is now unquestionably the big brother.
BJP asserts itself
The BJP’s growing ambitions in Bihar are not a surprise, as Nitish’s declining popularity gives it an opportunity to expand in a crucial Hindi heartland state. Nitish is also 69 years old, and the JD(U) appears to have little plans on its strategy after the exit of its most prominent leader.
The JD(U) chief was also reported to have said at a recent poll rally that this would be his last election. Sources close to him later claimed that he meant that it was the last meeting of the election, as reported by NDTV. Nevertheless, the remark fuelled speculations about the future course of his career, and by extension, the fate of his party.
Meanwhile, a resurgent BJP has reasons to believe that it can contest on its own strength in the 2025 Bihar Assembly elections. An article in Outlook magazine quoted political analyst Sanjay Kumar as saying that the BJP is not likely to ally with anyone in 2025, or it may tie-up with smaller regional players, like in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP’s strong showing in the 2019 Lok Sabha election would also give it the confidence to go it alone in future. In last year’s parliamentary polls, the BJP won all its 17 seats, while the JD(U) won 16 seats. The BJP also had a higher vote share at 23.58 percent, in comparison to the JD(U)’s 21.8 percent.
Even in the aftermath of the recently-concluded elections, some Bihar BJP leaders, such as SC Morcha chief Ajit Kumar Chaudhary, have said that it is now time for a BJP chief minister in the state, notwithstanding the party’s official stand. Such voices are only expected to increase in the future.
Thus, the only question that remains now is how long the BJP will allow Nitish Kumar to continue as chief minister despite his party getting much fewer seats.
Sushil Kumar Modi’s declining relevance
Sushil Kumar Modi has been an intrinsic part of the old JD(U)-BJP partnership in Bihar, and has been Nitish’s deputy on three occasions, the first one being in 2005. Over the years, Modi has developed a reputation as the BJP’s ‘organisation man’ in Bihar with formidable clout in the state.
However, with the old guard in Bihar now on its last legs, it is not much of a surprise that the BJP leader most closely associated with it is also losing relevance. Not only did Modi enjoy a close rapport with Nitish, but he also picked up his early lessons in politics at around the same time — the 1974-1975 JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) movement.
Sushil Kumar Modi’s alleged ‘docile’ nature also may have turned out to be his undoing. The Print quoted a BJP leader as saying that under his leadership, the Bihar unit of the party would ‘never grow bigger than Nitish.’ Modi never raised issues such as BJP ministers appointing officers of their choice, the leader was reported to have said.
An article in Free Press Journal noted that Modi may now be accommodated in the Union Cabinet or given a Rajya Sabha berth.
But with Sushil Kumar Modi’s declining relevance in Bihar’s politics, what is certainly apparent is that Nitish Kumar will not have an easy tenure as chief minister.
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