‘Hukum Ka Ikka’: Here’s How the BJP Was Unable to Sideline Nitish

Despite winning 31 more seats, BJP couldn’t sideline Nitish Kumar as JD(U) retained all key portfolios. Here’s how.

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Has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) really clipped the wings of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar? For now, the answer is no!

The BJP emerged as the 'bade bhaiyya' of the Janata Dal (United) (JDU) after winning 74 seats in the elections compared to the JD(U)'s 43. And people were like, ab toh Nitish ka khel kahtam! He's going to be sidelined by the BJP, the BJP is eventually going to throw him out of Bihar, blah blah blah...!

While all these analyses and speculations were very well-based and reasoned, considering how well we all know the BJP, Nitish Kumar is somebody who has clearly refused to be sidelined.

Here’s a look at the portfolio allocation between the BJP and the JD(U).

The Portfolio Allocation

Out of the 15 ministers who took oath, six, including Nitish Kumar, are from the JD(U), seven, including the two deputy CMs, are from the BJP, and one each from the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM). But the key ministries that were with the JD(U) the last time are still with them this time.

Ministries like Home, Education, Transport, and Minority Welfare were with the JD(U) last time and are with it this time as well. The ministries of Finance, Revenue, Health, and IT are with the BJP this time, just like the last time.

The BJP has gained a few ministries like Industry, Panchayati Raj, Disaster Management, Sugarcane that were earlier with the JD(U). More or less, a few ministries might have changed hands, but the key portfolios are still being held by the JD(U). So, that begs the following question:

What Was Nitish Kumar’s ‘Hukum ka Ikka’?

From the looks of it, Nitish Kumar refused to bow down to any pressure the BJP might have tried to subject him to for the bigger portfolios. He knew that the BJP has no choice other than him.

The BJP can't have an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). The Left and the Congress joining hands with the BJP? No chance! Even if MLAs from other parties decide to join hands with the BJP, they would need at least 48 of them.

But on the other hand, Nitish Kumar could have turned to the RJD at any time and ditched the BJP. Remember, he has done that before.

Moreover, he has appointed Mewalal Choudhary as the Education Minister, despite him being on bail in a corruption case. The BJP had constantly attacked Nitish Kumar's coalition government with the RJD before 2017 over this issue.

Choudhary's appointment says that Nitish Kumar is having his way in the alliance and actually had a stronger hand when it came to bargaining for the portfolios.

Won’t Be a Cakewalk for Nitish

The BJP might not have taken a lot of key portfolios, but this time, there isn't one but two deputy CMs from the saffron party. The Speaker, though not confirmed so far, is also likely to be from the BJP.

And while these things might not be as big a deal for Nitish Kumar, he is certainly going to be overpowered by the number of BJP members in the alliance.

What Has the BJP Gained?

This isn't the BJP's highest tally in terms of number of seats as in the 2010 elections, it had won 90 seats. But the major change from the BJP's side is the new personnel introduced in the Cabinet.

Sushil Modi's replacement by Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi is particularly significant, considering Sushil Modi had a good working relationship with Nitish Kumar.

Many say that the BJP is not at all looking to expand in Bihar more than it already has for the next five years. Rather, it appears to be a transition period for the party until it forms ground to either form a government on its own or fight fresh elections without the JD(U).

In the meantime, the party's main priority would be to –

  • Expand its Hindutva voter base
  • Win over Nitish Kumar's non-Yadav OBC, Mahadalit and female voter base and
  • RJD's Yadav voter base

A warning bell for Tejashwi Yadav as well!

What Next for Nitish Kumar and JD(U)?

Will Nitish Kumar go for a confrontation with the BJP in a few months from now and bring down his own government to project himself as a martyr? Something similar was done by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the only difference being that they never reached the stage of sitting and talking portfolios.

Or is Nitish Kumar seriously seeing this as his last innings, irrespective of what the BJP has planned? He did hint in an election rally that this is his last election. And in that case, what happens to the JD(U)? Does it have leaders to keep the party alive or will it become redundant after Kumar takes a backseat?

In either of the two eventualities, it would be interesting to see what turn does the JD(U)'s fate take, now that it is the junior partner to the BJP in the state.

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