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BJP – A House Divided

29 October 2010 View Comments

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

Leader: Sushil Modi
Election Symbol: Lotus
Alliance Partner: JDU
Contesting: 102 out of 243 seats

BJP in Bihar is plagued with the same problem that is troubling it at the Centre: infighting. The state unit is a divided lot. Just like at the Centre, leaders are busy fighting among themselves, instead of fighting the opposition. What is peculiar to BJP however is that those who are unhappy, sulk, and harm the party from inside, instead of walking out. At the start of election season itself, while Congress swiftly changed its state unit leader and AICC state incharge by a simple high-command diktat, BJP had to undergo a long drawn out process of delays, extensions  and negotiations before finalising a name, not belonging to either camps. However it only lead to opening up of another front within the party. Origins of dissension within state BJP though could also be traced to its inability to stand up to the pressures exerted by its dominant partner, JDU. From being the leader of the opposition through out the RJD rule to becoming the deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Modi has always played second fiddle. Not many would remember that JDU started off as a junior partner in NDA alliance in its previous avatar of “Samata Party”. Slowly it consolidated its position and took on the role of ‘big brother’ in the alliance after the separation of Jharkhand from Bihar. Some people would recall the first reshuffle of the Nitish government in Bihar, where non performing Ministers were dropped from cabinet. BJP was forced to drop a couple of its Ministers even though they were performing well to appease Nitish Kumar. The portfolios of all its other Ministers too, except the Deputy CM were reshuffled. Sushil Modi was accused of being hand in glove with Nitish and internal revolt started brewing from there on, both in JDU and BJP. While Nitish was able to crush internal dissent within JDU with an iron hand, Modi neither had the inclination nor the wherewithal to the act decisively, leaving the problem to fester.

Sushil Modi, C. P. Thakur, Nand Kishore Yadav

Nand Kishore Yadav, Sushil Modi, Anant Kumar, C.P. Thakur, Kailash Pati Mishra

Modi is an able administrator and has done well as the Finance Minister of the state marshaling its resources, using innovative means. Despite the current focus on Central Assistance to Bihar in the Congress election propaganda, it needs mention that most Central funds come with riders of matching state funds, which was the Achilles’ heel for all the previous governments in Bihar. Moreover post bifurcation of Jharkhand, it is no secret that Bihar has faced severe resource crunch. In such a scenario Modi’s deft handling of the fiance portfolio deserves a lot of credit for putting the sheen back in the state’s finances. Modi as a politician, however suffers from two fatal flaws in his armor – lack of native catchment support base and lack of recognition as national leader. Unlike all prominent leaders in the state who have a solid native community support base, Sushil Modi remains a rootless wonder. He belongs to the minuscule Marwari community that traces its origin to Rajasthan. That he has survived in the state politics rife with casteism for so long, is no mean achievement. To add to this, unlike many later entrants to his party who shifted to the Centre politics when survival was tough in Bihar and lotus was blooming at the centre with BJP gaining power there, he stuck unwaveringly to the state politics (Even Nitish Kumar earned his spurs as the Railways and later Agriculture Minister in the Vajapayee cabinet at the centre).  This has resulted in a situation where all his detractors within the party either have a native support base or a national profile or both. Moreover Modi’s lack of ambition for the top job in the state has also emboldened those who are more ambitious and who claim that BJP should be more aggressive in dealing with JDU. Indeed with BJP controlling three of the most visible and powerful ministries of Health, Infrastructure and Finance in the coalition and most of its ministers performing better than their JDU counterparts, it seems ironical that all the credit for ‘sushashan’ gets accrued to Niitish solely. BJP, rife with dissension, has been unable to lay claim to its share in the good governance story of the state. They have also been hamstrung by the discord among central leadership because of which they haven’t been able to tie together their performance in Bihar as a coalition partner to their administrative successes in other states where they are in power alone. While earlier BJP used to win elections in Bihar largely on the basis of their organizational strength and urban support base, this time around they are forced to piggyback on Nitish’s popularity. They have also had had to face the ignominy of being dictated to by Nitish Kumar in declaring their hardline Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi out of bounds from state electoral campaign. While Narendra Modi may not be a factor in Bihar by his presence and would have only helped the opposition nail down Nitish Kumar, his forced absence does rankle the BJP brass and demoralizes its cadre, fueling its discord even further. All this may contribute towards BJP becoming the weak link in the NDA chain in Bihar. More worrisome are the indications from Nitish Kumar that he was ready to walk out of the alliance on matters of secularism, ringing a warning bell for the BJP even in the post poll scenario.

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