The separation between the JD(U) and the BJP in Bihar – first impact of Modi ..

This separation was not something that either party was looking for, but for the JD(U), this was a choice that was very difficult for them. The JD(U) is essentially a party that had leaders born out of the same kind of background as other leaders like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the like. The difference was in their situation and the opposition that they faced. The tie-up between the BJP and the JD(U) was never out of a common philosophy (in fact, the BJP was so different from the other parties that it required parties that needed the support of the BJP to form alliances with them – the current allies that are remaining such as the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal are those that do not have any philosophy that is ideologically very different from the BJP), but instead of a need to have power in Bihar and to overcome the Congress and the RJD of Laloo Prasad Yadav. Eventually it was all a caste calculus; so when Laloo was riding high with the support of the Yadav community, the alliance between the JD(U) and the BJP seemed to be a natural fit – it would look for votes of the upper castes as well as look for as much support from the OBC’s as possible.
So, even when the BJP was in power in the center of the form of the NDA, the alliance went on smoothly because the BJP seems to be better than the Congress at running alliances (not too much better, but marginally better) and the need in Bihar remained the same. When Laloo and the Congress get together, the support of the BJP + JD(U) remains a bit higher than their combined margin, and as a result, they are able to win spectacularly. The combination of castes that they can bring together + combined with the development platform + combined with the bad memories of Laloo’s rule keeps the combination ahead and had lead to the stability of the alliance.
The problem in this entire combination is the Muslim population of the state, which is around 16% of the state population. Earlier, Laloo used to claim a combination of the Yadav and Muslim population for his support, and this was something that Nitish has been aiming to break. In previous elections, he has managed to attract more Muslim support, and done this through 2 measures – By some specific targeting of development measures for the Muslim community (and also ensuring that there are no major communal problems in the state and law and order is maintained; the second one was to pretend that his partner was not the BJP). The second reason was more problematic, especially at critical times. It was always something that the opposition could use to target him, especially among the Muslim community. Nitish knew this to be a weak point, and it grows more problematic he can be targeted for this.
And this is the reason why Nitish has always been afraid of any effort that could show him in the same frame as Narendra Modi. He did not let Modi campaign in the state of Bihar, there was no association between them at any common meeting points, nothing that could even be captured in a photo and shown by Laloo as a coupling of Nitish and Modi; all this because he is fearful that the Muslim vote will desert him. One thing can be said for Nitish, he has been fairly consistent on this one; he had no problems with any other member of the BJP being in a leadership position such as Vajpayee or even Advani (who was the one who led the Rath Yatra and who prevented Modi from being removed as the Chief Minister after the 2002 Gujarat riots). Now that it is clear that Modi is on the way to being the leader of the BJP and even a sulking Advani was not able to prevent this, Nitish is already dreading the attacks of Laloo Prasad Yadav about the alliance between Modi and Nitish, and hence his need to quit the alliance.
However, not everything is going to be as smooth as he thinks. His breaking off of the alliance is happening bitterly, and the reactions of BJP workers in Bihar is turning hostile against him. The recent Lok Sabha bypoll where lack of BJP support and some anti-incumbency vote saw Laloo winning with a large margin, and this would have scared him. Nitish is running his 2nd Government, and by now, voters would be starting to forget the misrule of Laloo to some degree, and he does not automatically get the votes of the Muslim community and there is a good chance that he will lose some votes of the upper castes which can be a problem. In addition, the BJP will act for some time like a spurned person, and as a result, he is likely to face a concerted attack by the BJP, especially since Modi is now free to come to Bihar to campaign and push his development model. It is difficult for Nitish to ally with the Congress, since they fight for the same set of voters, and also he would not want to be party to the backlash that the Congress is now facing in several parts of the country. So, the choice for Nitish is limited, and he looks to have a hard time for some time at least. This is not similar to the decision by Naveen Patnaik when he broke the alliance with the BJP in Orissa and emerged without any problem.

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