The BJP leadership is looking for a credible face to take on the Nitish Kumar-Tejashwi Yadav combine in Bihar but appears to have little choice but to fall back on Sushil Kumar Modi and others from the old guard it had sought to marginalise in the name of ushering in a generational shift, party insiders said.
At a recent meeting with Bihar BJP core-group leaders in Delhi, the central leadership discussed for hours how to overcome the challenge arising out of Nitish’s swift move to snap ties with the BJP and realign with the RJD.
“We don’t have a leader in Bihar who can take on Nitish. The leadership had tried by replacing the old lot with new faces but it has failed,” a BJP leader said. “Till someone is chosen, the leadership appears to have tasked the old guard with the job of taking on the Mahagathbandhan government,” the leader added.
After the Delhi meeting, Sushil Modi, former deputy chief minister of Bihar, and Ravi Shankar Prasad, former law minister in the Narendra Modi government, were told to mount an aggressive attack on the new Bihar government demanding the resignation of new law minister Kartik Kumar. Kartik was sworn in on the very day — August 16 — he was to surrender before court in a kidnapping case.
Since the meeting on Tuesday, the two leaders have been sparing no opportunity to revive the fear of a “return of jungle raj” in Bihar.
The BJP insiders claimed that the “top leadership”, a possible reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had directly spoken to Sushil Modi and asked him to get active in Bihar since he is seen as the only leader who knows Nitish well due to his close association with him as his deputy for many years. Sushil Modi and Prasad were part of the Bihar BJP team that had pursued the fodder scam cases against RJD chief Lalu Prasad in the late nineties.
After the 2020 Assembly polls, however, Sushil Modi was taken out of Bihar and replaced with Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi as the two deputies of Nitish. Sushil Modi, who was privately accused of playing a meek deputy to Nitish and weakening the party, was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
Prasad, a high-profile minister in the Narendra Modi government, was also unceremoniously dropped. The move to edge out the old guard from Bihar was touted as part of a long-term strategy of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to build the next generation of leaders.
“The generational shift strategy has failed badly in Bihar. The two deputy chief ministers and the new state unit president have proved to be an uninspiring lot,” a BJP MP from Bihar said. “The central leadership now has been forced to seek the help of the same Sushil Modi and others who they had rejected.”