With all eyes set on the much-awaited results of the Bihar Assembly elections on Sunday, BJP leaders have started discussing the chief ministerial candidate, in case the NDA gets a majority.
As of now, BJP leaders are maintaining silence on the issue as the exit poll results have not given a clear picture. While some have given a majority to the Grand Alliance, others have predicted a comfortable win for the NDA. “We are hoping for the best. But let us wait till the final results are declared on Sunday,” said a BJP leader. The Grand Alliance has already named Nitish Kumar as its chief ministerial candidate.
According to BJP sources, discussions on the CM issue have already started. Though there are many claimants to the post, indications are that the party will finally zero in on two names — Prem Kumar and Sushil Kumar Modi. While Prem Kumar has been a six-time MLA from the Gaya Town Assembly constituency, and comes from the Kahar caste, which is under the Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs), Sushil Modi, an MLC, has been the Deputy Chief Minister in the Nitish Kumar government when he was part of the NDA.
Those advocating for Prem Kumar argue that his elevation can turn out to be a masterstroke for the BJP as the move will consolidate its social base. There are 28% EBC voters in Bihar. By making him the CM, the BJP can win over their support in future. The party already has made inroads among Dalits and Koeris by aligning with Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi, besides the forward castes.
EBCs in Bihar have so far been voting for different parties. Though Nitish Kumar did a lot for them, the results were not visible on the ground. Moreover, Kurmis dominated the scene during Nitish’s rule and EBCs did not enjoy the fruits of power. Thus, EBCs could not emerge as a strong social group. In the last few years, they have shown their inclination towards the BJP. If Kumar is made the CM, the BJP can make inroads among them, which in turn will pay rich dividends in the days to come.
However, a section within the BJP is also pushing for Sushil Modi. “He has been a loyal BJP worker for a long time. His performance as the Deputy CM was also satisfactory. Making him CM would be a kind of natural elevation,” a leader said.
However, what goes against his candidature is that he is not acceptable to a large number of state BJP leaders. He is also considered to be close to Nitish, a factor BJP will not ignore while taking a decision. Till the time of elevation of Narendra Modi as the campaign committee chief in 2013, Sushil Modi, a pro-Advani man, was his (Modi’s) strong opponent.
Prem Kumar, on the other hand, has acceptability in all camps. A no-nonsense man, Kumar is considered to be a sober leader who maintains a low-profile. Party sources said going by the trend of last year’s Assembly elections, after which Devendra Fadnavis, Manohar Lal Khattar and Raghubar Das were made CMs in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand respectively, it seems that PM Narendra Modi has a liking for leaders who maintain a low-profile.
Sources said some party leaders also want the leadership to appoint a forward caste leader as the Chief Minister. The name of Rajendra Singh, an RSS man, who is also contesting the election, was doing the rounds during the campaign. However, the party leadership does not appear to be keen on a forward caste candidate, as of now, as this may lead to a fear among the backward castes, especially in terms of reservations.