By Devika Kohli:
Bihar assembly elections are due later this year, and given the current political scenario in the state, it would be interesting to observe the outcome. The personal equations amongst party leaders have undergone a major change since 2010 i.e. the last assembly elections. In the hope for maximizing votes, personal differences have been set aside and new alliances are being forged while some old ones have been broken.
Shifting political alliances
Nitish Kumar led Janata Dal (United) had led the NDA to a massive victory in 2010, however in June 2013, the Janata Dal leader ended his 17 year old political alliance with the NDA due to irreconcilable differences.
On the other hand, in December 2014, what can be termed as a rare sight, arch-rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav were spotted together sharing the dais. Similarly, Jitan Manjhi, ex-chief minister of Bihar and an ex Nitish Kumar loyalist, declared to the media, “We will fight together. Defeating the unholy alliance of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in Bihar is the main issue for us and the BJP.” Manjhi’s recent meeting with the BJP president Amit Shah has triggered speculations about a possible tie up with the party.
Janata Parivar merger, Congress too joins in
The regional parties, after being decimated in the Lok Sabha elections 2014 (in their respective states), have decided to stand united in order to strike a fitting blow to the NDA regime in the upcoming assembly elections. Thus, in April 2015, it was declared that the new outfit, Janata Parivar, will be led by the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. The main constituents of Janata Parivar merger are Janata Dal United (JDU), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
In a bid to gain momentum in Bihar, Congress too has announced its tie-up with the RJD and the Ruling JD (U). What is interesting to note is that it is for the first time in history that Congress has joined hands with JD (U). Clearly, the regional parties have recognized the need of the hour and are trying all possible permutations and combination to have the upper hand in the upcoming elections. If the trio (JD(U), RJD and Congress) wins, then their choice of CM will be Nitish Kumar while the BJP is yet to declare its candidate for Bihar.
Modi effect waning in Bihar?
Recent reports suggest that compared to last year, BJP’s popularity seems to be declining owing to the gap between their promises and performance. It has been a tough year for farmers in Bihar and there is rising anger amongst them due to what they perceive as ‘state’s apathy’ towards their lot. The repeated promulgation of land ordinance is further serving as fuel to the fire.
“The people of Bihar understand the pulse of this nation. They have understood that the (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi-led government in Delhi is not the Government of the poor people or the farmers or the labourers or the lower middle class. The government belongs to a top two percent of the elite of this country. And this is a dangerous message to go across, no matter how highly the people of that party may think of themselves,” reported RJD leader Manoj Jha to ANI in Delhi.
The union of RJD, JD(U), Congress, and NCP under the Janata Parivar presents a formidable challenge to the NDA which in turn includes Upendra Khuswaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and former chief Minister Jitan Ram Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM). The combination of JD (U), RJD, and Congress amounts to 45% vote. This is unbeatable given that the three parties maintain a good understanding about seats and refrain from splitting their votes. Last year, the BJP and LJP together received just 36% votes but they managed nearly 80% of the seats because their opposition was fragmented even though it had a high percentage of votes.
BJP seems to be in a tricky situation as per what a senior BJP leader (who wished to remain anonymous) reported; “The BJP in Bihar is a divided house. To project a leader from either the OBCs or the upper castes as a chief minister candidate would antagonize the other group. BJP is not in a position to project any one person against Nitish Kumar, who was declared chief ministerial candidate by Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress and National Congress Party (NCP) alliance” .
Only time will tell what happens in the assembly elections to be held in Bihar later this year. One thing is certain though, from the election of Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister and AAP’s win in the state elections, to the formation of the first of their kind alliances – the face of Indian Politics is changing!