The Rising Son
The RJD and its leader Tejashwi Yadav are the clear winners in the new alignment. His party, back in power with the JDU, is the single largest in the assembly. Unemployment was a major plank of Yadav’s election campaign and after the election, he has projected himself as a champion of youth welfare. He is likely to be the main beneficiary, as and when chief minister Nitish Kumar moves out.
However, the RJD was working on expanding its social base among a section of upper castes. Much would depend on how its promise on jobs is implemented by the new government. Most backward castes (MBC) voters were nurtured by Kumar and they have always backed him. The onus is on Yadav that Kumar’s supporters don’t feel marginalised since their leader is weaker in terms of electoral numbers.
Opportunities: Being in the government gives Yadav an opportunity to change the perception of the party with development and better law and order.
Challenges: The party is still dependent on the Muslim-Yadav support base and the challenge is to grow the base beyond this combination.
It was the marginalisation of Nitish Kumar and his voters that made Kumar make a move which was not anticipated by the BJP. The BJP used to be a pillion rider with Kumar, but things changed in 2019 and 2020 when the BJP emerged as the bigger partner in Bihar. However, the rise of the BJP as the biggest national party electorally has been intimidating to its allies, even when the party has been ready to sacrifice the leadership role. In Bihar, the party will have to work out a new equation, and it remains dependent on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The labharthi (beneficiaries of welfare scheme) politics is a tried and tested tool with the BJP. Party leaders have already been projecting PM Modi as the MBC leader who works for the poor. Apart from traditional upper caste voters, the BJP will work to hold on to the beneficiary voters in a state, where caste does matter.
Opportunities: Going solo gives an opportunity to the BJP to expand its social base by reaching out to the beneficiaries and the poor, just as it did in Uttar Pradesh. Brand Modi is a huge advantage.
Challenges: The BJP needs to strengthen itself against a formidable opposition, with caste equations in favour of the other side.
Nitish Kumar is the chief minister yet again, but it is hard to arrest the decline his JDU has been going through election after election. While the BJP will be the main opposition, the RJD will be in a position to flex its muscles. The JDU’s struggle for identity and relevance will continue, no matter who is the partner. Several of its second-rung leaders seem uncomfortable with the new alliance, especially those who had been defeated by the RJD in the last assembly election.
The BJP is fiercely targeting the vote bank considered to be JDU’s core. The JDU is not a cadre-based party like the BJP and it is not organisationally strong on the ground. In this situation, much would depend upon whether Kumar becomes the opposition’s face for 2024. Even if he manages to galvanise the opposition camp in certain states to put up a joint fight against the BJP, his stature will rise nationally and that would help his party too. The alliance with the RJD could also benefit the JDU, as it did in the past.
Opportunities: Kumar can work for opposition unity across the country, maintaining his image of good governance.
Challenges: The JDU’s fortunes have been declining and so is Kumar’s popularity.
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