Kolkata: The CPIML(L), which has emerged as the largest Left party in Bihar, views the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideology as the main threat to the communist movement, apprehending that the saffron party will attempt to consolidate its position by fielding its own candidate as chief minister of the electorally crucial state ahead of the 2024 general elections.
The CPIML (Liberation), which had alone clinched 12 out of the 16 seats the Left parties bagged in Bihar in the 2020 Assembly elections, said they were willing to "look at any political formulation" to stop the rise of the BJP.
"We believe the BJP will try to bring in their own man as chief minister as it feels the utility of their ally Nitish Kumar has reduced... they may try and promote Kumar for the vice president's chair or ease him out in some other manner," said CPIML (Liberation) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya in an interview to PTI here.
Speculation was rife that BJP may name Kumar as its vice-president nominee, though the JD(U), which he heads, has scotched such rumours.
The Communist Part of India Marxist-Leninist (L) leader, who goes by his first name and is here to attend his party’s conference, has been working with his colleagues for decades to build an electoral base in Bihar and Jharkhand.
Dipankar also predicted that BJP may "try to break up both JD(U) and the Congress in the state" to cement its position ahead of the 2024 general elections.
He pointed out that BJP had a history of doing so in order to form governments in states where they are part of ruling alliances.
"It will do a UP (Uttar Pradesh) in Bihar," he predicted, referring to the way Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress were split in the late 1990s into separate parties, and the breakaway factions lent support to the BJP to make Kalyan Singh the chief minister of the state.
While BJP has managed to consolidate its hold over most parts of North India, it has never had a chief minister from its ranks in three north Indian states – Bihar, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.
Bihar is the most populous of these three states, besides being the only one which is part of the Hindi heartland, contributing 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha. In the last 2019 general elections, BJP won 17 of its seats from this state.
Analysts point out that Nitish Kumar too has been quietly taking steps. For one, he walked across to his predecessor Rabri Devi’s house for an Iftar party last month, where he chatted with leadership of the Rashtriya Janata Dl or RJD, which her husband Lalu Prasad founded.
A week later, RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav was invited to an Iftar party hosted by JD(U)'s minority cell and Kumar walked the young Yadav leader to his car.
In a state where much is read into symbolic gestures, these acts as well as Kumar’s pronouncements on Universal civil code and on loudspeakers which seemed to be at odds with BJP's position, are being seen as portents by political pundits, though the JD(U) has been terming them as "normal civil gestures".
For Nitish Kumar, a break with BJP and going over to join hands with RJD could see JD(U)'s upper caste supporters parting ways with it and walking away to the saffron camp, say analysts. The risk of an alliance with RJD and Congress could also lead to a compromise on the chief minister’s post, which the Lalu Prasad-led party may well demand.
While Dipankar refused to speculate on the possibility of Janata Dal (United) breaking with the BJP, he said "our aim is to stop the BJP and we will always look at any political formulation which can achieve that".
In the last elections held in 2020, the Left parties had joined hands with the Congress and the RJD to form the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (mega-united coalition) which had won 110 out of 243 assembly seats.
The NDA won 125 seats. Though the single largest party was RJD with 75 seats with the BJP remaining at number two spot with 74 seats, the chief minister-ship went to the saffron party’s ally Nitish Kumar as he was the most acceptable face in the alliance for the job.
The entrance of the newbie on the state’s political firmament -- Prashant Kishor -- albeit with a development platform which may transform into a political party is also being watched with interest by the former Naxalite party.
However, the CPIML (L) leader said "we have yet to understand PK … we are studying his experiment".