Can developments in Bihar change what was considered to be a done deal in the poll for Lok Sabha in 2024 in which BJP was expected to win third term to rule India for another five years. Third term is never easy for any political party as incumbency sets in and many promises made to people remain unfulfilled. BJP was not suffering any setback on this count and was expected to do even better as compared to 2019.
Reasons were obvious, there was no alternative. Congress the main opposition party remained in disarray. BJP had scored another spectacular victory in U.P. The opposition alliance in power in Maharashtra had been replaced and BJP aided by Shiv Sena rebels had come to power. The opposition parties remained divided. Aam Admi Party has come to power in Punjab in place of Congress and continued to erode Congress base in states like Goa and Gujarat. Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee had her own ambitions and declared repeatedly that Congress was no more capable of giving a fight to BJP.
At this stage suddenly there was a change in Bihar where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar decided to ditch his partner in power BJP and join hands with RJD to take oath as Chief Minister of Bihar for eighth time. The Bihari leadership also declared that all opposition parties, eight in number, have joined hands to support new Bihar Government. They also made no secret of the fact that before 2024 Nitish Kumar will be willing to challenge BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Prime Ministership as opposition candidate.
It was no secret that Mr Nitish Kumar had been working on changing sides for a long time as he felt that in the poll for State Assembly in 2020 BJP had cut down his numbers by encouraging Paswan to field candidates against him. This changed the situation as JDU instead of being a major player in Bihar coalition became a junior partner with BJP emerging as largest single party in Bihar Assembly. Mr Nitish Kumar marked his time and supported NDA candidate in Presidential poll and poll for Vice President.
In the meantime started parleys with RJD and Congress leaders. He joined Iftar party at the house of his arch rival Lalu Prasad Yadav. He also met Sonia Gandhi in Delhi. But fear in his mind was that even if he changed sides and showed a majority the State Governor will call upon BJP in first instance to form Government being the largest party in the Assembly. This was changed when four members of Owaisi Muslim league merged with RJD making it the party with largest number of MLAs in Bihar Assembly.
Now the question arises how far change in Bihar will influence outcome of poll for Lok Sabha in 2024. First despite calls for unity by Bihar leaders , the unity of opposition leaders remain a distant dream. Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and old player in wings Sharad Pawar all have their own dreams of leading fight against BJP as opposition candidate in 2024. None of them is willing to yield space for new candidate for top post. BJP may get fewer seats in 2024 from Bihar and Maharashtra but its ability to get majority is not in doubt because its hold on U.P remains intact which is to send 80 members to Lok Sabha. Second factor is that the popularity of Narendra Modi is not only intact but has improved. There are concerns regarding economic slowdown, unemployment and inflation, but he is still considered as best man for the job of Prime Minister.
The distance between him in popularity and acceptability for top job between him and opposition candidates like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee has grown. At this time his acceptability is even more than the acceptability of BJP as a political Party. More so, during last two polls we have noticed that poll for Lok Sabha instead of being a contest between political parties is becoming Presidential with more focus on candidates which is expected to favour Mr Modi. BJP gets more support in Lok Sabha as compared to poll for State assemblies…
In conclusion one can not help but accept that Bihar developments have captured headlines and given boost to opposition parties but in race for top job Narendra Modi remains favourite and with no one close to him.