With Nitish back in NDA fold, here's how BJP is preparing for 2019 Lok Sabha polls
With Kumar on its side, the BJP wants to give special focus to expand its social base in the state with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Although Kumar was responsible for consolidating more than 100 castes under the political banner as ‘Ati Pichchara’ (extremely backward class, or EBC) during his previous tenure in the NDA camp, the department which handles backward and extremely backward classes is now headed by a BJP leader Braj Kishore Bind.
BJP was very keen to get this department this time, party sources said. Nitish’s ministry has five representatives from the EBC — three from Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) and two from BJP. By ensuring the representation of various castes, BJP is probably trying to get rid of its tag as a party of upper castes in Bihar. Prem Kumar, who is a nine-term MLA and BJP’s prominent EBC face in the state, is the agriculture minister.
With Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh also from Bihar, having a BJP member in the position could help the state in having better coordination with the Centre in the agriculture sector.
While JDU has not dropped any of its members from the previous ministry, possibly to stop chances of discontentment within the organisation, having six upper caste faces in the Cabinet — even though two of them are from JDU — is also likely to suit the political interests of BJP. This at a time when there was a concern among some leaders in the party that its focus on expanding the base among OBCs may prompt the Congress to woo upper castes, the traditional supporters of BJP.
NDA has also given priority to induct minister from areas such as Kosi, Seemanchal and East Bihar, where BJP could not perform well in the 2015 assembly polls. Kosi and Seemanchal areas are considered to be the strongholds of RJD. While the ministry has no representation from NDA’s two allies — RLSP headed by Union minister Upendra Kushwaha and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM — it has inducted Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pashupati Paras too. Since RJD chief Lalu Prasad is allegedly eyeing RLSP and HAM, NDA couldn’t ignore the demands of Paswan’s LJP.