JD(U) and public want alliance, Narendra Modi first for BJP

Nitish KumarBihar Chief Minister and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar (IE photo)

Nitish Kumar's clear indication on the NDA's prime ministerial candidate ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections may have put the BJP in a tight spot in Delhi but his JD(U) workers and supporters on the ground in Bihar seem visibly reluctant to break ranks with their alliance partner in the state.

And that poses a dilemma for the JD(U) leadership.

This week, The Indian Express visited eight Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar — Muzaffarpur, Nalanda, Munger, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Darbhanga, Madhubani and Nawada — shared equally between the two parties, to get a sense of how the tensions between the two parties at the national level are playing out on the electoral battlefield.

In general, BJP workers in these constituencies were less keen to save the alliance with the JD(U) at the expense of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's claim to be projected as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate.

JD(U) supporters, however, appeared eager to stick together even as they asserted that their core support base of extremely backward classes (EBCs) and Mahadalits would remain intact, come what may.

While public sentiment seemed to acknowledge the rising popularity of Modi, it was also clearly opposed to the BJP and the JD(U) going their separate ways as people seemed to fear it would give a window of opportunity to Lalu Prasad's RJD.

"Both will suffer losses," was the common refrain when people were asked about the BJP and JD(U) breaking their alliance over Modi.

"There is no alternative to Nitish Kumar in Bihar. The end of the alliance will give an unnecessary opening to RJD's Lalu Prasad, whom we cannot trust, and even the Congress that does not exist in Bihar," said Rajkumar Mahto of Gyodhapar, a village in the Harnaut assembly segment of Nalanda.

The fear of Lalu returning in the event of the BJP and JD(U) breaking up weighs heavily on the minds of supporters of both parties. The JD(U) is also apprehensive about whether its anti-Modi plank would be good enough to woo more Muslims to make up for the loss of upper-caste voters traditionally associated with the BJP.

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