ANALYSIS BIHAR POLLS
PATNA/NEW DELHI: As elections approach, party-hopping is common; those who have less chance of a candidature shift base to where they can hope to get one and feel safe. So is the case with the eastern state of Bihar, currently caught in the heat of the assembly election campaigns.
With older alliances facing some odds and newer coalitions are being cobbled with the help of party-hoppers and opportunists, the three-phase polls from later this month is already generating wide national interest.
As many as 42 constituencies out of the line-up of 71 going to the polls in the first phase of the elections on October 28 have rebel candidates. In fact, all the major political parties — the BJP, the JDU, the RJD, the LJP and the Congress — are bogged down by mini-mutinies by leaders from various levels.
The trend had started a while ago. Prominent names like Chandrika Rai, Faraz Fatmi and Jaivardhan Yadav joined the ruling Janata Dal (United) in August, giving a jolt to Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Chandrika Yadav was close to Lalu and in RJD for a long time. Rai’s daughter Aishwarya Rai is married to Tej Pratap Yadav, the son of the RJD chief.
In most cases, the parties have responded with punitive action. Still, the mutineers can give serious challenges to their parent party’s prospects in these constituencies and some are capable of upsetting the parent party’s applecart. Notably, the ruling alliance of the JDU-BJP is faced with the maximum number of rebellions and this could impact its prospects in a negative manner.
The seat-sharing arrangement between the JDU and the BJP has left many ticket hopefuls in the alliance bitter, and wary of their losing chance of becoming MLAs. The BJP will contest 110 seats out of the 243 seats after giving up 11 seats to the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). BJP ally, the Janata Dal (United), got 122 seats but will contest only 115, leaving the remaining seven for the Hindustani Awam Morcha of former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi who has a strong Dalit base.
Manjhi was a close confidant of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who even made him CM of the state in 2014 following his own resignation after being routed in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, in the ever-evolving political scene, Manjhi revolted against his mentor Nitish in 2015 and was ousted after JDU MLAs pulled back their support ahead of the trust vote.
After days of hectic parleys between Nitish Kumar and Manjhi, the former CM declared that his Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) will join the NDA; giving a jolt to the RJD. Manjhi formed Hindustani Awam Morcha after quitting the NDA in February 2018, and joined the Grand Alliance, the Mahagadbandhan.
The majority of the leaders who have changed sides now are either Yadavs, Muslims or the upper castes. They hope to get backing from their communities in the respective assembly constituencies. As per Election Commission data, 16 per cent voters in the state is of Yadavs and 17 per cent Muslims. The two communities dominate in 110 seats, which powered the political ambitions of Lalu Yadav for many years.
This time, the Janata Dal (U) has given 19 seats to Yadav candidates and 11 to Muslims.
Soon after the BJP released the list of candidates for the first phase, nine senior state leaders Rajendra Singh, Rameshwar Chaurasia, Usha Vidyarthi, Ravindra Yada, Shewata Singh, Indu Kashyap, Anil Kumar, Mirnal Shekhar and Ajay Pratap revolted against the leadership and filed their nomination papers, pitting themselves against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidates. BJP swiftly showed them the door.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has suffered a major jolt with revolt from three of the party’s prominent Dalit faces. Two-time assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhury has filed his nominations from Imamganj constituency on an RJD ticket, and will now take on the NDA nominee.
Assembly elections in the state starts from October 28 in three phases of voting will be the first election to be held in the country amid the coronavirus epidemic, and with strict restrictions. Elections for the 243-member assembly will start with polling in 71 constituencies, marking the first phase on October 28. For 94 seats in the second phase, polls will be held on November 3; and in the last and final stage for the remaining 78 seats, polling will be on November 7. The results will be announced on November 10. –IHN-NN
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