As leadership faces, postures put Bihar BJP in split stick, Nitish plays it cool
Even though the Janata Dal (Uni) made it clear that the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will not move to the national capital for a high-level constitutional post, several senior BJP leaders in Bihar have continued to engage in political posturing, albeit quietly.
Political circles in the state have been in turmoil for some time over the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs and Ujiyarpur MP Nityanand Rai being the potential ministerial face of the BJP in the event of a Nitish leave Bihar before the 2025 parliamentary elections.
Rai was instrumental in organizing the April 23 event to commemorate the hero of the 1857 rebellion Veer Kunwar Singh in Jagdishpur as part of the Centre’s “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” which put on a great show of nationalism with a record feat of collective salute of over 78,000 flags. While attending the event, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah also mentioned Rai for inviting him there.
Rajya Sabha MP and former Bihar MP CM Sushil Kumar Modi has also sent strong political signals in recent days, expressing concern over the BJP’s defeat in the Bochahan poll for which he pointed to factors such as the split EBC votes and the removal of a section of upper caste voters from the party. A series of his tweets in this regard indicated that he was still not giving up his claim to the leadership of the state party.
Firebrand Begusarai MP and Union Minister Giriraj Singh, a Bhumihar leader, has openly displayed his Hindutva credentials by regularly issuing aggressive statements on population control and the need for a National Citizens Register (NRC ) in the country.
BJP leaders engaged in such postures ahead of the expected expansion of the State Cabinet. If the BJP replaces one or both of its two CM deputies, it will shed light on how the politics of the saffron party will unfold in the near future.
Nityanand Rai, a Yadav leader, has positioned himself as a top BJP player for a possible leadership role in Bihar, but the party has been deadlocked over projecting a Yadav as its possible face CM, given its upper caste centered support base in the state.
Since the BJP became the largest party in the Bihar Legislative Assembly last month, with the three MPs of its former ally Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) joining its fold, the party has intensified its pressure on its junior ally, the Directed by Nitish Kumar JD(U). The BJP now has 77 MPs against 76 for the main opposition RJD, while the JD(U) has 45 MPs.
Although BJP State Chairman Sanjay Jaiswal recently claimed that Nitish would remain the CM until the 2025 elections, this has not ended the raging race among BJP leaders to become the face of the party in Bihar.
The state BJP is caught between its hard core, made up of upper castes and segments of non-Yadav EBCs, Dalits and OBCs, and the question of projecting a Yadav as its leader. Although Rai is seen as close to Shah, much of the BJP’s OBC and upper caste leaders seem uneasy with the idea of projecting him as the face of the party.
For his part, Nitish kept everyone guessing by not reacting to comments from BJP leaders and counter comments from his own party chiefs. Recently, shortly after JD (U) National President Rajiv Ranjan Singh aka Lalan Singh said Nitish had been the CM because of “the strength of the people and not because of anyone’s blessings”, party spokesman Arvind Singh said. “Everyone knows the truth”.