The decision of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) to contest the Bihar Assembly elections independently marks the beginning of a transition in state politics. While the JD(U) under Nitish Kumar has been in power for long, it does not have a strong second line of leadership. With Ram Vilas Paswan indisposed and Lalu Prasad Yadav in jail, the RJD and LJP have seen leadership thrust upon the new generation of leaders who have had to step in to fill the political vacuum and keep their support base intact. Chirag Paswan is an actor, and like Nitish Kumar, also an engineer by profession. Under him, the LJP aims to enhance its appeal, though it has decided to contest mostly against the JD(U) and thus keep its vote base clearly outlined. But it remains to be seen how the RJD-Congress combine fields its candidates in these constituencies which may determine the outcome.
On its own, the LJP has never been a key player in state politics, preferring to lend support to governments. The decision to break free from the NDA in Bihar is a show of assertiveness and indication of a trend where regional parties are leaving or distancing themselves from the government because of the popular disapproval over farm laws, exodus of migrants and the Hathras outrage. The LJP has hinted at support for the BJP in case it forms the government in Bihar under its own CM. The latter has not specified its possible chief ministerial candidates, though it has leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shahnawaz Husain and present Deputy CM Sushil Modi. Their projection and acceptability will be crucial for political consensus.
The entry of Chirag Paswan has implications for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The possibility of alternatives that it throws up should force a rethink on his part. The BJP-JD(U) alliance has mostly endured, but as a rupture on a previous occasion shows, politics is the art of the possible. The Bihar CM will be under pressure to prove that he is a still a wily practitioner of it.