Even as trends on 10 November showed the Janata Dal (United) underperforming in a big way ― it has never had an impressive strike rate in the history of Bihar elections ― Lok Janshakti Party president Chirag Paswan succeeded in damaging Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led party by playing a significant role in its lacklustre show in many seats.
Of course, the LJP itself paid a price in the process, as the Election Commission data till 5.30 pm showed that neither it had won nor it was leading even in a single seat while drawing around over 5.6% of votes.
It had been speculated when Chirag Paswan revolted against the leadership of Nitish Kumar that it was the BJP that played him up to put the chief minister on a leash. The party ruling at the Centre has betrayed a curiously poor negotiating skill while in a meeting with the JD(U) over seat-sharing. While the BJP always converted a greater percentage of seats it contested from, in one election after another, it gave away an equal number of seats to the partner who failed to convert a lot many of its share to victories. Yet, wary of angering the JD(U) head, sources in the BJP said, it had to engineer a loss for its partner without appearing to be doing it directly ― so that, eventually, the regional party turns weak during the next round around the negotiating table.
Paswan’s party has been instrumental in the JD(U)’s defeat in at least 30 seats, as per the latest trends. The Election Commission hadn’t issued the final tally till late last night.
As per the latest EC data, JD(U) had won two and was leading in 41 seats, a big drop from 71 seats it had won in 2015 assembly election.
JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said that a “sinister” campaign was run against Nitish Kumar as part of a “conspiracy”.
Perhaps getting a whiff of BJP’s hand in its debacle, Tyagi said, “अपने भी शामिल थे और बेगाने भी (Our own people harmed us as much as the outsiders),” he said, without taking any names.
The spokesman, however, expressed confidence that Nitish Kumar would become the chief minister again, noting that top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had made it clear that he will head the government if the ruling NDA retains power.
The BJP was leading or had won in 71 seats, according to the EC trends. Two other NDA members were leading in eight seats.
The NDA in total had won or was leading in 122 seats while the RJD-led opposition had won or was ahead in 110 seats.
On 17 May 2014, Kumar had resigned, taking responsibility for his party’s poor performance in the 2014 general elections, and was succeeded by Jitan Ram Manjhi. However, he returned to office in February 2015 following a political crisis in Bihar and won the state elections of November 2015 by partnering with his bugbear Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD. As was expected, the alliance called Mahagathbandhan did not last long. Nitish soon made an allegation of Lalu’s ‘corruption’ and returned to the NDA.
Nitish Kumar is largely seen as an underperforming chief minister whose sole credit is in ending Lalu’s alleged jungle raj. He is viewed also as a power-hungry politician who never won a seat in the Vidhan Sabha but the MLC is wily enough to secure the top executive’s seat every time. Just before the final round of this Bihar poll, he had said this would be his last election.
Sources said, the central leadership of the BJP will now ask him to leave the chief minister’s office and join the union cabinet.