The BJP’s bandwagon, towards east, has stopped in Bihar. Can it gain pace again to reach West Bengal and especially Assam next year remains a big question. The party’s nervousness was already evident as it decided to declare the chief ministerial candidate for Assam soon, a grave mistake it has learnt from Bihar. After all, every state is not Haryana where election can be won in the name of Narendra Modi. The party, in absence of a tall leader to be projected as chief minister, had no intension to name the top post until the Bihar election results. But, now it has to make the tough choice even at the cost of likely division in the party.
If not the announcement of Mahagathbandhan before elections, Nitish Kumar’s swearing in as the chief minister where all “anti-BJP” leaders converged is definitely a very strong signal for the saffron party that the 2016 battles are not going to be a piece of cake. The party might end up remaining north India party only. With Mamata still going strong and Left remaining the biggest alternative, the BJP may not have expected much from West Bengal. The party’s biggest gamble of deciding to grant citizenship to religious (read Hindu) refugees from Bangladesh could give a strong push to its prospects in the state, but not likely enough to oust Mamata. On the other hand, the same decision might boomerang the party in Assam where 34% of the population are Muslims, most having suspected origin of Bangladesh. The party’s only hope is the Badaruddin Ajmal – led AIUDF, who can spoil the Congress chances further by fighting it alone like in 2011.
The rally at Gandhi Maidan in Patna saw as many as four chief ministers of North-east besides national leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, all from different parties, cheering for Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad. They are not there just for the love of Nitish, or Lalu! Their presence on one dais means a united fight against the BJP. The Mahagathbandhan government may be short-lived, chances of which are not weak, but its formation is enough to dampen the spirit in BJP, especially in the east. The anti-incumbency against Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who has been at the helm for 15 years, may not be enough for the party to hold the reins of the state. If not Gogoi himself, the grand old party might still come back by working out a formula like Mahagathbandhan. And if that happens, Assam is going to see a unique election with top leaders from all national parties making pitch for their allies.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 21, 2015)