New Delhi: In 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) created history by becoming the first ever non-Congress government to return to power at the Centre. However, the party faced setbacks in subsequent state elections as it could not form the government in Maharashtra or Jharkhand and formed a government in Haryana only after striking an alliance.
In 2020, the BJP has high electoral stakes in two key assembly elections, Delhi and Bihar. It is a fight for prestige for the party in Delhi, where it has been out of power for nearly two decades. Bihar will be a crucial test of the BJP’s ability to keep its alliance partners together after the setback in Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
In Delhi, the BJP is taking on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Congress, which is fighting for survival in the state. The party also faces a significant challenge in Bihar from Mahagathbandhan, which primarily includes the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress. Bihar is the first state that BJP lost after coming to power in 2014 but it is incumbent there now after joining hands with the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), led by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The management of alliance partners, the JD(U) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, will be the biggest challenge for the BJP. Its concerns have increased against the backdrop of the failure to form government over disagreements with former ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the breaking away of ally All Jharkhand Students’ Union in Jharkhand, both of which cost it a win.
“The alliance between BJP and JD(U) is doing well in Bihar and that is why the two parties have stuck together for several years. The government under Nitish Kumar has worked for the people of the state and development. We are confident that the alliance will once again get the support of the people as happened in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections," said a senior BJP leader of the state requesting anonymity.
Last week, JD(U)’s Prashant Kishor and Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP got into a war of words, beginning with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and leading to seat-sharing ahead of the assembly elections. Kishor said the JD(U) should contest more seats, but Modi asserted that the top leadership of the two parties will decide on seat-sharing details.
“In Delhi, Kejriwal is in a very strong position and the BJP’s key aim would be to improve its position. Bihar will be a tough fight and not a walkover for any political party, including the BJP. There is already a lot of dent in the National Democratic Alliance and the BJP’s problems could increase depending on how many seats it will give to the JD(U), which will also look to maximize its presence," said Subrata Mukherjee, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
Bihar is crucial for the BJP to maintain its political dominance in the country’s Hindi speaking belt. However, the outcome of elections in the national capital will also be significant and the BJP’s key challenge will be to counter Kejriwal as a chief ministerial face and his government’s pro-development electoral pitch. The BJP would want to repeat its Lok Sabha performance of winning all the seven seats in Delhi. It faced a similar challenge in previous assembly elections where it had joined the electoral race on the back of winning all Lok Sabha seats in the state but failed to retain momentum nearly six months later in 2015.
The BJP has launched its campaign for Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding a rally in the capital’s Ramlila Maidan last month over the issue of regularizing 1,731 unauthorized colonies, one of the mainstays of the party’s campaign for the elections.
Gyan Varma contributed to this story.