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The upcoming tussle between the BJP and Nitish Kumar over Narendra Modi




There has always been signs of friction between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi. Both of them campaign on the development front, but while Nitish Kumar looks for support for a wider section of society, including the muslim vote, Modi campaigns on a harder front, looking for more overt Hindu support while being much more focused on developing a reputation for being a development champion and thus carrying the state to be advancing much more than the rest of India. In this effort, Modi has got big marks from many industry champions and won the state elections consecutive times. Nitish Kumar however is from a different type of background, one which appeals to the minorities and to the Muslim community and also propagates development as a way of improving the condition of the state of Bihar (and for his efforts, he also retained the state of Bihar in a very impressive way).
One would expect that 2 major champions of a development focus would be supportive of each other, but fundamentally they are very different from each other. Modi has a reputation from the riots of 2002 that will not go away, and as such, remains anathema to anybody who expects votes from the Muslim community. The worry of being associated with Modi is enough to scare Nitish Kumar, especially since his opponents in Bihar politics will keep on drumming that message forever into the Muslim community. And this was the reason that Nitish Kumar forbade Narendra Modi from campaigning in the last Bihar elections, and the BJP agreed to let this happen.

The BJP struggles with getting a winning leader, and a strong message that will portray it as a viable alternative to the Congress, enough to get allies from various states who will support the BJP in getting past the 272 mark. In the previous election, the defection of Naveen Patnaik’s BJD was pretty horrifying for the BJP, especially since he won the elections after that and set a precedent that Nitish Kumar could easily follow. He has almost enough seats in the Bihar assembly to stand on his own, has a good reputation, and would believe that he could easily live without the BJP.
The BJP on the other hand needs a person such as Narendra Modi. There is a dearth of strong leadership in the BJP, somebody who can be projected as a Prime Minister candidate, and in this emptiness, you can almost see Modi making his pitch. He dictated terms by getting Sanjay Joshi kicked out of the party, and even gets the support of the RSS (even though he is not really known for Hindutva tactics in Gujrat, and the RSS and VHP don’t like him – he has brushed aside any need for them in the state, and has even committed the so-called cardinal sin of demolishing temples if they stood in the path of some development). But the RSS is not just a devoted Hindu focused organization, it also keeps on searching for a strong leader who has appeal, and Modi seems to be fulfilling that purpose.
Modi promises to be a game changer in the BJP. He will make the process of making allies more difficult if he is projected as the leader, but at the same time, he is seen as a person who will polarize the electorate in many of the states where the BJP is either the primary party or can pull in a lot of support, and hence seen as having a high chance of being the next leader of the party. In such a case, one can be sure that Nitish Kumar will be leaving the NDA, but will the loss of these MP’s be covered by the expected increase in the number of MP’s that Modi can generate ? This is a gamble.




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