Bihar Elections 2020: JDU chief Nitish Kumar is slowly losing his Muslim base in Bihar, and one of the primary reasons behind this shift is the rise of the BJP. Muslims voters did not have a problem with Nitish as long as he was the big player in NDA, but as the equations quietly change between BJP and JDU, the voters too are shifting their stand.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has now gone ahead of JDU in terms of popularity and vote share, something that could create trouble for Nitish Kumar in retaining Muslim votes like he did in the last assembly polls. In 2015, JDU’s vote share was close to 17 per cent while the BJP had clocked over 24 per cent. This time, both the parties are contesting the polls almost on equal seats.
The Indian Express reports that the extent of Muslim alienation from the Prime Minister Modi-led government at the Centre threatens to rub off on Nitish Kumar. It further says that even in the 2015 Assembly polls, with his popularity waning, Nitish had managed to retain the support of Muslims largely on account of Mahagathbandhan partners, RJD and Congress. “The fact that he did a turnaround in 2017 and went back to BJP is seen as a stab in the back by the community,” it observes.
Since then, the report says, Nitish Kumar has relegated the lead role in the alliance in Bihar to Prime Minister Modi. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the NDA bagged 39 of 40 seats in Bihar and the Congress could win just one seat mainly because it had over 70% Muslim population. Congress leader Mohammad Jawed got over 33 per cent votes while JDU’s Syed Mahmood Ashraf could secure over 30 per cent. Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM came at the third position with 26.78 per cent votes.
The report also states that one reason JDU is losing base among Muslim voters is that it has no big leaders from the community. It says Nitish Kumar’s party once had leaders like Ali Anwar, Dr Ejaj Ali and Dr Shakil Ahmed but now it has no such big names apart from MLC and former Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Rasool Baliyawi.
This time, the JDU has fielded 10 Muslim candidates — Khursheed (Firoz Ahmed) from Sikta, Sarfuddin from Sheohar, Shagufta Azeem from Araria, Naushad Alam from Thakurganj, Mohammed Mujahid from Kochadhaman, Saba Zafar from Amour, Faraz Fatmi from Darbhanga Rural, Mohammed Jamal from Kanti, Altaf Raju from Marhoura and Aasma Parbeen from Mahua.
For the BJP though, the calculations could be more favourable than they have ever been. Recently, an opinion poll conducted by Times Now-C Voter predicted majority for the NDA with BJP emerging as the single largest party by in Bihar. As per the survey, the JDU is predicted to win 70 seats while the BJP 85. If these numbers hold true then the power equation will change between both the parties.
This is not the end of trouble for JDU. Chirag Paswan’s LJP is too siding with the BJP and challenging Nitish Kumar in the state. Just over a week ago, Chirag Paswan walked out of the alliance in the the state over “ideological differences” with Nitish Kumar’s JDU. Chirag said that his party had no problem with Prime Minister Modi but will not accept the leadership of Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Many suspect that it may be a game-plan of BJP to prop up Chirag to weaken JDU. They say that the BJP is eying chief minister’s chair and Chirag’s LJP, if wins respectable number, could do the rest for the BJP.