Modi’s ‘Hanuman’ out in the cold? | India Today Insight
When the impact of Chirag Paswan and his Lok Janshakti Party on the 2020 Bihar election is assessed, analysts will say if not for them Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) could have finished with as many as 74 assembly seats (31 more than it actually won) and even become the single largest party in the assembly.
The RJD, currently the single largest party with 75 seats in the 243-seat assembly, may have ended up with just 46 seats and the Congress with just 10, much worse than the 19 seats it has now.
Votes bagged by Chirag’s LJP in the 135 seats it contested—most of them against the JD(U)—confirm this fact. For the LJP, even though it won just one seat—Matihani, by a wafer-thin margin of 333 votes–ensured the defeat of NDA candidates in as many as 38. The RJD won 29 of these seats, whereas the Congress bagged nine—the biggest loser was the JD(U). Chirag, who described himself as the ‘Hanuman’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 16, did undercut the JD(U) to ensure the BJP became the ‘big brother’ in the alliance, but he also sliced off enough of the pro-NDA votes to help the RJD-led alliance into the position of a potent opposition.
The adverse impact was visible on other NDA partners too, as Mukesh Sahani’s VIP party lost five seats while the BJP and HAM(S) lost one each. VIP president Mukesh Sahani is a case in point. He got 73,925 votes but lost by a margin of 1,759 votes to RJD candidate Yusuf Salahuddin, primarily because LJP candidate Sanjay Kumar Singh cornered 6,962 votes.
The 38 seats where the LJP candidates played a part in ensuring the NDA’s defeat are Sheikhpura, Dinara, Bhagalpur, Obra, Chenari, Kargahar, Atri, Dhauraiya , Sherghati Jamalpur, Madhubani, Banipur, Darbhanga Rural, Meenapur Barharia, Maharajganj, Ekma, Baniapur, Rajapakar,Mahnar, Sahebpur Kamal, Alauli , Khagaria, Nathnagar, Islampur, Suryagarha , Jagdishpur , Raghubathpur , Suguali , Laukaha, Kasba , Kadwa , Singheswar Simri Bakhtiarpur, Gaighat , Mahua, Samstipur and Morwa.
To be fair to Chirag, his candidates bagged more votes than the NDA allies in six of these seats, so in terms of impact the NDA could have perhaps won 32 more seats had it persuaded Chirag to sit out this election. This may appear as a harsh assessment of Chirag’s first electoral foray alone, but it’s justified since he had declared that his primary objective was to unseat Nitish from the Bihar CM’s post—which he failed to achieve.
Having led the LJP since his father Ram Vilas Paswan’s illness and death (on October 8), Chirag had taken a huge gamble by breaking away from the NDA and going solo. He had focused his attacks on the JD(U) and Nitish though the LJP did contest against the BJP too in five seats. He had also accommodated a fair number of rebel BJP leaders who had not got tickets.
The LJP had hoped to pick up enough seats to form a government with the BJP, but that wasn’t to be. Incidentally, the party’s fortunes have been on the decline in Bihar when it comes to assembly polls. Their best show was in 2005, when it won 29 seats and bagged 12.6 per cent of the vote. The LJP won 3 seats in 2010, 2 seats in 2015 and just one seat in 2020.
But such is the importance of arithmetic in the first-past-the-post system that despite its worst-ever performance, Chirag almost ejected the NDA in Bihar. The NDA returned with a slim majority of 125 seats in the Bihar assembly with the RJD-led grand alliance snapping at its heels with 110 seats.
So where does Chirag go from here? Though the LJP is happy with the 5.7 per cent voteshare ( 2.38 million votes) it got, there is a huge question mark over the party’s political future now that Ram Vilas Paswan is no more. Some parties or alliances may find Chirag useful, but the LJP chief has also earned powerful enemies like the JD(U), who will look for any opportunity to settle scores. Chirag has been hinting aloud that his party remains a member of the ruling NDA alliance at the Centre, a fact that the BJP central leadership has also not contested. But a big handicap for Chirag is that the LJP’s political presence is confined to Bihar where the BJP-JD(U) is running a coalition government now.
AThe BJP leaders in Bihar admit that only the central leadership can take a call on inducting Chirag or anyone else from the six-MP LJP into the Union cabinet. Sources, however, believe it is unlikely. Chirag addressed the media shortly after the election results, expressing satisfaction about the number of votes his party bagged and also reiterating his support for “Modiji” in New Delhi. The BJP has not reciprocated so far. So for now, Chirag looks like he is on his own.
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