The presidential election of 2017 will perhaps prove to be the most consequential for the state of Bihar. Ever since the NDA nominated former governor of the state Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate for the July 17 election and the JD(U) led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar supported him, problem has only snowballed in an already rocked Mahagathbandhan in the state.
On the top of it, when the Congress decided to field Meira Kumar, a daughter of Bihar, as the Opposition's candidate for the election, the rift intensified more and it now seems even the grand alliance which had come to power in October 2015, defeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP, could see a break up.
The allies in the Bihar government have been targeting each other since the two Dalits were nominated for the presidential election. The situation has turned so worse that JD(U)'s national spokesperson KC Tyagi went to the extent of saying that the alliance could not be saved. Another JD(U) leader Shyam Rajak attacked the Congress, also a member of the grand alliance, saying it has no credibility, CNN-News18 reported.
Shivanand Tiwari, another JDU(U) spokesperson said his party had no say in the alliance. And beside the verbal crossing of swords, Congress's Ghulam Nabi Azad countered Tyagi's viewpoint that Meira Kumar was nominated because of the Congress's "obstinacy and arrogance". Azad said Nitish Kumar was trying to hurt Meira Kumar's chances in the presidential election.
JD(U) has stood by Nitish Kumar
The JD(U) has shown a strong team spirit by standing by the chief minister. Nitish Kumar's party will not complain too much about the RJD's relentless attack for it will give it a grand opportunity to call off the alliance and go with the BJP, something the changed circumstances in the national politics would demand from it.
Nitish Kumar, being the leader of the junior ally in the government, has been facing challenges in running the government swiftly because of the presence of the RJD, its traditional foe in the state's politics. An exit route from the government will do more than a favour to Nitish though the JD(u) leadership would be cautious that the blame doesn't fall on its shoulders in case the grand alliance falls apart.
The RJD, on the other hand, will lose more if indeed the alliance is called off. After Lalu Prasad's conviction, his party had to put in extra effort to regain the lost ground and together with Nitish, it succeeded in beating Modi's BJP, which was also responsible for making strategic errors ahead of and during the 2015 Bihar polls.
If BJP joins JD(U), largest party RJD will be cornered
It will also give the BJP a chance to come closer to Nitish Kumar, leaving the largest party out in the cold. If BJP joins the JD(U) in the Bihar Assembly, they will have 124 seats, two more than the magic figure of 122 in the House of 243 members.
The BJP has sensed an opportunity. Former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has said that his party would not rule out an alliance with the JD(U). He also said that they knew that the Nitish-Lalu would never survive.
For the BJP, the 2015 loss was a major humiliation and it would be the happiest side on the earth if Nitish and Lalu eventually part ways. It would not only mark a revenge of that defeat but also seriously weaken the anti-Modi platform ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
For Nitish, it would be a rewinding of history as he had left the BJP-led NDA history a year ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. His return would cement a place for him the national politics after Modi and for the shrewd Nitish Kumar will not spare any effort to make his own space beyond the limits of Bihar, even if that means siding with the political colour he hated four years ago.