Bihar Polls: LJP exits NDA, Mahagathbandhan Stitches its Alliance

K S Tomar

K S Tomar

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Bihar Polls: Stakes are very high for Modi and Nitish

CONTRARY to common perception, Bihar Mahagathbandhan alliance partners have sunk their egos and differences to accept Tejshwai Yadav as Chief Ministerial candidate whereas departure of Lok Jan Shakti (LJP) from NDA has created an unexpected political scenario which seems to be byproduct of over ambition of Chirag Paswan to emerge as ‘King Maker’ if Nitish Kumar, CM, fails to enhance his party’s strike rate of 40 to 50 percent as compared to BJP’s projected strike rate of 80 to 90 percent.

Tejashwi’s RJD will be dominant partner and Congress has agreed to play second fiddle which contributed a lot in finalizing sharing of seats prior to NDA.

bihar
Bihar Vidhan Sabha

Political observers opine that LJP parliamentary board’s resolution to strengthen hands of PM Narender Modi clearly reflects a ‘Tactical Understanding’ with BJP which may seek its help to form government if Nitish remains unsuccessful in winning maximum number of seats.

2ndly, LJP’s decision to field 143 nominees on those seats being fought by JD(U) is an evidence of ‘Secret Parleys’ and exempting BJP seats may pave way for weakening Nitish and strengthening of BJP which wants to be number one in new formation.

3rdly, LJP’s weapon to cut votes of JD(U) due to its’ leader Chirag’s stark differences with CM indicates that Paswan wants to project himself as future leader like Tejashwi as Nitish may not contest next election in Bihar in 2025.

On the other hand, the recent court verdict acquitting all 32 accused in Babri Masjid demolition case may act as a savior to JD(U)-BJP alliance which faces fifteen year anti -incumbency and adverse factors like inadequate relief to floods victims, a huge numbers of loss of jobs, lack of health infrastructures, pandemic crisis, crime graph, etc. BJP-JD(U) alliance seems to be in an advantageous position in Bihar polls if voting is held today.

Analysts opine that CBI court’s verdict has already given new ammunition to BJP to strengthen its Hindutava agenda and derive political mileage to pull out Nitish from a zone of uncertainty of getting 4th term in Bihar elections.

Sushant Rajput Issue

BJP never lags behind when it comes to emotive issue to woo voters hence Sushant case may be brought to the fore and focus will be on injustice done by Maharahstra government in impartially holding the investigation into suicide/murder of actor.

Nitish may also emphasize that Bihar government had seriously and sincerely taken up the investigation and Supreme Court upheld his government’s demand to hand over the case to CBI.

biharBJP’S cultural wing, Kala Sanskriti Manch, which has released 35,000 stickers with equal numbers of masks with photo of actor. Video will also be in circulation which says “Na bhule hain, Na Bhulne denge.”

Analysts opine that Modi –Nitish duo evokes faith and credibility amongst the electorates as it is still deemed to be a formidable combination which may sway the tide in favour of NDA whereas opposition lacks Charismatic leaders at centre and state level to counter the rivals.

Bihar polls will be one of the biggest electoral exercises in the world under the shadow of Pandemic crisis which will bea trend setter of transition of Digital based politics for ensuing assembly elections in four states which include West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Pudducherry in 2021.

Elections are synonyms of maximum contact between party leaders and workers which will be completely missing and brought to the lowest level to maintain social distancing thereby putting question mark over the percentage of turnout of voters and style of campaigning.

The political situation in Bihar is radically different from the charged atmosphere of 2015 polls. At that juncture, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, the two stalwarts who have dominated the state’s political scene since 1990s, buried their hatchet and animosity to forge a grand alliance against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Due to influence of both leaders bringing castes factor into play to derive political mileage, the powerful coalition inflicted a crushing defeat on the BJP. But the alliance did not last long and the functioning of Lalu and his son etc forced Kumar to revert back to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fold in 2017.

Clash of issues

Political observers feel that there will be no dearth of issues for ruling NDA combine as well as opposition which will be radically different from 2015 assembly elections in the state.

Bihar
Sushil Modi

BJP will face a major challenge of retaining main election plank which emanates from burning and well publicized core issues like construction of Ram Temple, Tripple Talaq, Abolition of article 370, CAA, Uniform Civil Code etc which may not be acceptable to Nitish Kumar whose party had taken different stand on majority of these issues which may lead to bone contention between two allies.

If BJP succumbs to pressure of Nitish then it may amount to diluting the ‘Hindutava’ which will be unacceptable to RSS as well as the party?

Farm bills’ advantages may be highlighted by PM and its vicious propaganda of opposition may figure in speeches of Modi. Nitish may also welcome the abolition of Agriculture Marketing committees in Mandis which have proved fruitful to farmers.

Also Read: CBI Court Babri Masjid Verdict – A Betrayal of Faith

Observers have interpreted the possible impact of vital issues on the psyche of electorates which will unfold with the picking up of electioneering in coming days.

How will Modi-Nitish combine tackle caste factor?

In Indian politics ,there is proverbial saying “Jaati nahi jaati Bhartiya chunavon se” (Caste factors always remains intact in Indian politics) though it had been wiped out in 2019 parliamentary polls due to Modi wave when youths and voters of other communities including Muslims voted for him.

Narender Modi and Nitish Kumar

BJP strategy may veer around the retention of upper caste and urban population whom they failed to win in 2015 assembly polls which preceded an alliance between Lalu, Nitish and Congress neutralizing the impact of Modi wave.

Mahagathbandhan is handicapped especially owing to exclusion of Lalu from the scene unless voters give an extra weightage to misgovernance and failures of Nitish government.

As per data, the Mahadalits and Dalits consist of 5% Dusadh, 2.8% Musahars, and others. The other Dalit votes remain split between RJD, JDU, and LJP of Paswan.

As per the voting pattern of all these caste communities, it is evident that the current NDA alliance works well for the BJP, JDU and LJP. If we take a broader look at the above estimates around 56% population of Bihar belongs to other backward classes. Amongst them, 16% are Yadav OBC and the rest 40% are considered to be Non-Yadav OBC.

Lalu Yadav

RJD supremo Lalu, has been cornering the loyalty of the 16% Yadav OBCs of Bihar. Whereas the Non-Yadav votes are distributed between Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (United), who are currently holding the Bihar Government.

The Non-Yadav OBC votes continue to prefer the BJP-JDU alliance since 2009 Lok Sabha Elections. In addition to this, the 2014 Lok Sabha Election was a bit special because many young voters rose above the caste politics and voted for Modi who had caught their imagination and aspirations but nothing is certain now.

Upper castes account for 15% of the population of the entire Bihar including Brahmins, Bhumihars, Rajputs, and Kayasthas. It might be because of the Hindu ideology of BJP, but the upper castes preferred BJP and these votes have shifted from Congress to BJP .

Where will go Muslim votes?

Observers believe that Nitish has made every possible attempt to retain his popularity amongst the Muslims in the state and opposed Triple Talaq bill in Rajya sabha though JU(U) did not vote against it.

Also Read: ‘Act of God’ in ‘Ram Rajya’?

On July 31, 2019, its spokesman Sanjay Singh had made clear that our stand on Ram Mandir, Triple Talaq, Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 would not be in consonance with BJP.

Chirag Paswan

But 2020 is not 2010 when BJP and JD(U) alliance had won 206 assembly seats out of 243 as Muslims had voted for this combine.

Nitish had snapped ties with BJP in 2013 when Modi was declared as PM candidate which did not yield results in 2014 lok sabha polls but gave a jolt to BJP in 2015 assembly elections when Nitish forged alliance with Lau and Congress but left it in 2017.

Bihar has about 17% Muslim population whereas Mahadalits + STs make up 15% of the overall population. Scheduled Tribes are only 1.3 percent.

Tejashwi Yadav

Analysts point out that two factors viz Insecurity and Isolation may push Mulsims towards Nitish as RJD and Congress combine may not guarantee safety of their life. BJP may get the support of Upper Castes i.e. 15% and others JDU 26% EBCs and Dalit voters.

BJP and JDU jointly can attract the shore up other Non-Yadav OBCs. While Paswan gets the votes of Dusadhs that are 5% which will be loss of NDA but it will benefit from smaller parties like Manjhi’s having 2.8 percent etc.
AIMIM is sure to enter the poll fray in Bihar which may have its impact in Muslims dominated segments in the state and it is likely to cut the support of RJD.

Issues to haunt Nitish

Opposition may harp upon the inapt handling of the Corona crisis, inadequate relief to victims of floods and pitiable condition of lakhs of migrants who had entered their state in the hope of being treated with concern and sympathy.

But reports suggest that in the Floods crisis, as against the demand of Nitish Kumar to give adequate relief, the centre could not fulfill its demand as floods had affected some other states also.

Bihar got initially Rs 400 crore against Rs 4,000 crore damages and affected 82 lakh people besides 123 deaths. Nitish did give Rs Six thousands per family as gratuitous relief which was much below the expectations and needs of victims.

Bihar
Nitish Kumar

Similarly, CM will have to explain the lack of health infra-structures which had added to the woes of people who were attacked by the virus. Nitish also did not earn applaud as per his image when it came to handling of Migrants who contribute 35 percent to Gross State Domestic Product(GSDP) through remittances from Indian states and abroad.

Loss of a huge numbers of jobs may put Nitish government in a fix as economy has assumed distressed proportion and survival for every government has become difficult.

Also Read: How Modi Govt ignores ‘Unanswerable Questions’?

The stakes are very high for Modi and Nitish as outcome of Bihar polls may prove as new trend setter to other assembly polls which will be held next year. Bihar will also spell out the credibility of opposition and its viability as well as credibility amongst the people while facing onslaught of NDA led by Modi in future.

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K S Tomar

K S Tomar

The writer, a senior political analyst, is a former Editor of the Hindustan Times' Rajasthan edition and has spent nearly four decades in journalism, including a six year stint in Nepal where he covered Sino-India-Nepal complex relationship and had a ringside seat to the Himalayan Kingdom's transition into democracy.

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