On August 10, after taking his eighth oath as chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar sneered at Prime Minister Narendra Modi by saying, “He won in 2014, but will he in 2024?” When asked if he wanted to run for prime minister at the time, he had already assured that he is “not a contender for anything”. “The question to ask is if the person who came in 2014 will win in 2024,” he said.
Bihar’s constant societal struggles have yielded great philosophical and political innovations since the time of the Buddha. Bihar strikes the chord of monumental dissent when others conform. In contrast to other states where opposition governments have been overthrown by BJP, Bihar is the first state that has ousted a BJP-affiliated administration.
Five days before India celebrated its 75th anniversary of independence, Bihar made a major political change. The JD(U) left the BJP-led NDA alliance and rejoined the Mahagathbandhan giving an excellent news to the opposition. It is nothing less than a political coup that has the potential to alter the political situation in the country.
When it seemed like 2024 was already decided, Bihar’s power transition created more room for opposition politics. The effort to use the Eknath Shinde card in Bihar was thwarted by the chief minister, Nitish Kumar‘s switch again. He may very well have made it more difficult for the BJP to win an outright majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections as a result of his actions. It’s terrible news for the BJP because it hasn’t yet proven itself as a viable independent force in Bihar. This shift in Bihar has national relevance that can not be understated, since now BJP doesn’t look invincible.
Bihar’s political shifts are unique to the state. However, Bihar has historically served as a catalyst for national, social, and political transformation. Additionally, there is reason to believe that significant political events in this state at this time could portend change on a larger scale.
From a national standpoint, Nitish’s move is intriguing because Bihar is heavily caste-driven and does not share Uttar Pradesh’s Hindutva dominance. In Bihar, the Mahagathbandhan could easily defeat the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The results of the elections in Bihar in 2024 would more than balance out the BJP’s gains in Maharashtra.
The only prerequisite is that until then, Nitish and Tejashwi Yadav must maintain a semblance of unity and harmony. The Mahagathbandhan may prove to be a reliable coalition for the ensuing two years if the determination to oppose the BJP is strong enough.
According to the 2019 Lok Sabha results, the aggregate vote share of the new seven-party alliance, adds up to over 50%. This combo appears to be powerful. The seven-party coalition in Bihar is therefore a cause of concern for BJP.
Of course, the BJP will use every tactic they can think of to undermine the new coalition. The investigative authorities must already be cleaning up old records that were saved for such a moment.
However, Biharis can react much more vehemently against the oppressive methods employed by the Centre. After all, Bihar is not Maharashtra. Politics in the opposition will undoubtedly intensify and become more compelling.
This change in power in Bihar has important ramifications. First, the BJP’s expansionist plan has come to a standstill. The ruling party put in extra effort to make India free of the opposition. The plan to topple opposition governments by splintering parties through abusing governmental agencies and financial power may have been derailed.
The BJP has tasted its own medicine, and not long after shattering and devouring the Shiv Sena to form the government in Maharashtra. The BJP can now be neutralized; its tactics against opposition governments, parties, and leaders can be defeated, which is a shift.
Moreover, a broad-based coalition government by all opposition parties is a big development. The most powerful alliance of political positions and social groups Bihar has ever seen is the coalition led by the JD(U) and RJD. In fact, no state has ever had a state government formed with the support of the entire opposition. This can give national opposition groups new hope to form alliances to oppose the BJP together outside of Bihar, as they have so far remained divided and discouraged. Indian voters have been asking themselves repeatedly “Who is there to unite and lead the Opposition?” as they search for an alternative. The Congress and all other parties are at a loss for solutions. The political tremor in Bihar has now shown what appears to be a likely solution while also highlighting the importance of opposition unity in curbing the BJP’s unstoppable advance.
Early in the 1970s, when Jayaprakash Narayan began a valiant fight against Indira Gandhi‘s autocratic government, Bihar offered Indian politics a new direction. Nitish Kumar joined the JP Movement when he was a young student leader, and he was imprisoned for 19 months during the Emergency (1975-77). He is now waging war against yet another dictatorial rule. Bihar seems to be offering much-needed hope at a time when democracy and other cherished Constitutional values are being threatened and risk of communal divisiveness is escalating.
There is no doubt that a grand alliance is required, but that will only take place when the political opposition’s senior leaders communicate with one another in a spirit of cooperation and sharing that maximises the good for everybody. However, the alliance won’t last long without a clear understanding on important political matters. Momentary unity for the sole purpose of ousting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will remain susceptible to the money, power, and political scheming of the ruling party, which they have plenty of. The fundamentals of good governance are what need to be converged, not a laundry list of a thousand issues.
The current status of the country demands a democratic revolution rather than politicians fiddling with electoral math. That also entails a change in the way our country thinks, not only in terms of the new governance. A coalition to dethrone the current government is insufficient; rather, we must work together to forge a stunning alternative.
Moneera Aiman is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Maryam Hassan