2024: Will It Be Nitish Vs Modi In Hindi Belt?

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Sami Ahmad

PATNA—Nitish Kumar has done to BJP in Bihar what the BJP was boasting of doing to the rest of the parties in different parts of India.

As the next Parliamentary election is to be held within two years, a fresh option in Nitish Kumar has given birth to the question. Will it be Modi vs Nitish in 2024 in the Hindi belt?

Out of 543 Lok Sabha seats, 208 falls in seven Hindi-speaking states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand.

In these states, narratives set in Hindi will get a serious challenge from Nitish Kumar who famously coined the term Badka Jhutta Party (The Big Liar Party) for the BJP. Being with the BJP for such a long time, Nitish, with his deputy in the government Tejaswhi Yadav by his side, might prove a severe headache for PM Modi’s overestimated oratory skills.

Similarly, BJP tried its best to implement its tested policy of engineering defection in Bihar and failed using RCP Singh, former president of JD(U) against chief minister Nitish Kumar. This is a jolt for a person like Amit Shah and the BJP. Both succeeded in Maharashtra to get  Eknath Shinde to stage a revolt against chief minister Uddhav Thackery and took away 2/3rd of Shiv Sena MLAs to topple him and form a puppet government by even compromising the position of its former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. So, this political maneuvering by Nitish Kumar may haunt BJP in the Hindi belt in the run-up to the 2024 general election. 

Then there is now the infamous use of central agencies like ED, CBI, and others to frighten and frame the opponents. This threat is still not over for Nitish Kumar. Still, his decision to join hands with Tejashwi Yadav is like creating immunity to this. As this salvo of BJP, too, has failed in Bihar, it may be feeling a bit down. Nitish Kumar’s image has also helped him in this regard.

In this age of disdain for political morality, it is only important to talk about the numbers. Nitish required that number to dump BJP as a partner and he got support from seven different parties with the biggest number of 79 from Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Against this backdrop, it is important that in 2019 BJP’s and its allies’ success in Bihar was massive with just one seat going to the opposition out of 40 Parliamentary seats. That one seat was in the Muslim majority Kishanganj where Congress’ Dr. Mohammad Jawed had won.

More than the inclusion of RJD and Congress in the Bihar government, the ouster of the BJP from it is important. It seems very difficult for them to repeat the 39-1 performance even if it means an all-out attack by the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah combined with the media onslaught.

Similarly, Nitish’s presence in Jharkhand in the opposition camp would hamper the chances of the BJP there, if chief minister Hemant Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha continues to remain with the Congress as it is running the state with them.

If Nitish could impact even a bit in Uttar Pradesh where a maximum of 80 seats would be at stake, it would be a considerable jolt for BJP there as the strongest citadel of the Modi-Yogi-Shah trio seems fragile in the bordering areas of Bihar. Uttarakhand with the least number of five Lok Sabha seats might have no effect on Nitish’s going to the opposition camp. But in Rajasthan (25 LS seats) and Chhatisgarh (11) he might be an asset to the Congress. Madhya Pradesh with 29 Lok Sabha seats is also an important state, where Congress has stalwarts like Digvijay Singh and Kamal Nath.

Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) has the potential of affecting the BJP’s performance in the Northeast as it had shown good performance in the Assembly elections there.

The number of seats which may be influenced by Nitish Kumar’s coming to the Grand Alliance is no doubt an important aspect but the real gain for this Alliance would be the dent in the perception of the BJP’s invincibility.

It would not be wise to expect Nitish to overthrow the BJP in 2024 but his weight would be felt immensely, provided the Congress does not do something seriously silly.

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