The BJP’s Kingmaker | Bihar

With the 6.5 per cent votes that his party bagged in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan has emerged as one of the foremost Dalit faces in Bihar politics. The past 32 years have seen him contest 11 polls, winning nine of them. This time, however, Paswan may not contest, taking the Rajya Sabha route instead to reach Parliament. What’s crucial, however, is his coming together with Nitish Kumar after a long gap.

In 1999, when the BJP, JD(U) and the LJP contested together, they bagged 40 of the 54 seats in undivided Bihar. We hope to better that result, says deputy chief minister Sushil Modi of the BJP. Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats now.

In the run-up to the 2005 assembly polls, Nitish met his old friend Paswan, seeking support to forge an anti-RJD front. But the deal did not work out, as Paswan insisted that Nitish must first quit the NDA. Now, 14 years later, the two will be part of the same election team, which, along with the BJP, will take on their old rivals. The BJP contested Bihar’s 30 Lok Sabha seats and won 22 in 2014. Now the party has agreed to contest only 17. The BJP has decided to let go of its seats because we know Paswan and Nitish together have enormous potential, says a BJP leader.

Dalit voters comprise nearly 15 per cent of the Bihar’s electorate and are numerically as significant as the Yadavs, who are 14 per cent of the voters. Nitish has walked the extra mile to please Paswanfrom inducting his brother Pashupati Paras as a cabinet minister to extending the benefits available for 21 sub-castes in the Scheduled Caste category to the Paswans.

As a senior BJP leader puts it, Unlike 2014, when a pro-Modi wave steamrolled everyone, this time we will have to battle anti-incumbency. We must have Nitish and Paswan by our side to stand a chance in Bihar.


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