A day after Lok Janshakti Party declared it would not contest the Bihar Assembly elections with the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), party president Chirag Paswan penned an open later, asking people “not to waste even a single vote” on a JD(U) candidate, the Hindustan Times reported. Paswan claimed the next government of Bihar will be formed by his party along with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Every vote going to the JD(U) candidate will compel your children to migrate from the state,” Paswan wrote. “It is a do-or-die battle for 12-crore Bihar people, and we have nothing to lose. I know the way forward for the LJP is not going to be easy, but then it has not been easy for the people of Bihar for the last three decades either.”

Paswan reiterated the LJP’s position that its winning MLAs would work “under the leadership” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to The Indian Express. The LJP president added that parting ways with the JD(U) was a difficult decision that had to be made for “Bihar’s future”.

“The LJP and the JD(U) have many ideological differences. Whether it is their “saat nischay” programme, or their behavior towards their allies, the rising bureaucracy in Bihar, or that no solutions are being given to the people’s issues either at the level of the officials or the Chief Minister.”  

— Chirag Paswan, The Indian Express

Paswan denied claims that the decision was to fulfill his own political ambitions. “Many people will come to you and say that this decision was taken because of my own ambitions,” he wrote, adding that his party decided to fight against the JD(U) on the basis of suggestions received from the common people. “Ye Bihar par raaj karne ke liye nahin, balki Bihar par naaz karne ke liye [And it is not to rule Bihar, but to feel proud of the state].”

In an interview with PTI, Paswan said he never had any faith in Nitish Kumar’s leadership.“For the past 15 years his agenda of governance has delivered nothing,” he told the news agency.

“For the past 15 years his agenda of governance has delivered nothing,” he told the news agency. “I will feel guilty if because of me he becomes chief minister of my state for another five years. I will feel guilty for the rest of my life that because of me my state had to suffer for another five years.”

— Chirag Paswan, PTI

Paswan claimed that Kumar had managed to be at the helm of affairs all these years because of a lack of an alternative. But people in Bihar now have many options to choose from as there are several smaller alliance in the fray, he added. “Let the people of Bihar decide.”

Kumar has been Bihar’s chief minister since 2005, except for a brief period after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when he installed Jitan Ram Manjhi at the helm. Before Kumar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal had ruled the state for 15 years.

Speaking of his several meetings with BJP leaders, including its president J P Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah to break the deadlock between him and Kumar, Paswan said he had been asking them to “free me and allow me to contest against Nitish Kumar because I do not want to go with his agenda of governance”.

The BJP’s relationship with the LJP has been complicated because of a feud between Nitish Kumar and Paswan, forcing the party into a balancing act. Paswan has accused Kumar of poor governance – especially since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent lockdown, and most recently the floods that have devastated large parts of the state.

Paswan has openly admitted to a lack of communication between him and Kumar and the two leaders have reportedly not spoken to each other for over a year. Besides this, Kumar’s move to bring Jitan Ram Manjhi to the NDA fold has fueled more anger in the Paswan camp, which has a similar vote-bank.

JD(U) hits back

Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) on Monday hit back at the LJP for exiting the alliance, saying the move was “overambitious, misplaced”, and “a suicidal act”. The JD(U) claimed the political realignment with just three weeks left for voting will have no impact on the results.

“The LJP has committed a suicidal act by coming out of the NDA in Bihar while sticking on in the alliance at the Centre for its political survival,” KC Tyagi, JD(U) national spokesperson and former Rajya Sabha MP, told The Indian Express. “We [JDU and BJP] will swim or sink together. There are no contradictions between us. In the 2010 polls, LJP was not part of NDA. Yet, JD(U) and BJP won 206 of 243 seats.”

Tyagi added Tyagi said that a “combined campaign” by Modi, Shah, Nadda, and Kumar, will “clear all confusion being created by LJP”. “The fact that both parties are coming out with the list for the first phase of polls (on October 28) shows our solidarity,” he said.

“Modi has said on several occasions in the recent past that Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA alliance in Bihar. The two leaders have also shared the dais on virtual platforms. BJP president J P Nadda also praised Nitish Kumar on several occasions.”  

— KC Tyagi, The Indian Express

Elections in Bihar will be held in three phases between October 28 and November 7. The counting of votes will take place on November 10. This is the first election to be held in the country during the coronavirus pandemic. The Bihar Assembly has 243 seats, of which 38 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and two for Scheduled Tribes.