Foes-turned friends vs. NDA’s facelessness
The Bihar Opposition leader Nandkishore Yadav’s website has a recurring theme, “Mission 185+”. If all the 31 seats the NDA won from Bihar in 2014 Lok Sabha polls are translated into assembly segments, BJP ought to win 77.5 per cent or 188 out of the total 243 seats. Anything less would be proof that the Modi wave has ebbed. That’s the tough job for the PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. The biggest unspoken strategy is to keep the Mahagathbandhan divided
The land of Saraswati, Bihar, has been juddering by tremors of political quibbles for a considerable time now. Bihar battle is on the way, most political observers and commentators seem to agree that the coming elections to the Assembly in Bihar will not only be important but perhaps definitive in suggesting the shape of mainstream political life in India till the next General Election in 2019.
The Bihar Opposition leader Nandkishore Yadav’s website has a recurring theme, “Mission 185+”. If all the 31 seats the NDA won from Bihar in 2014 Lok Sabha polls are translated into Assembly segments, BJP ought to win 77.5 per cent or 188 out of the total 243 seats. Anything less would be proof that the Modi wave has ebbed. That’s the tough job for the PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. The biggest unspoken strategy is to keep the Mahagathbandhan divided. The tried and tested formula of tapping the aspirational class to give them hope of the elusive acche din will also be put to work in Bihar. Narendra Modi in his speech referred to the Gujarat model of development and how similar programmes can be implemented in Bihar. It was his strategy to counter Nitish Kumar’s ‘working CM’ image. The special package for Bihar and One Rank One Pension, were announced at a strategic time to reap maximum dividends. BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: ‘’Political analysts may like or dislike the special package for Bihar and may hail or castigate it, but there is little doubt it has become an important agenda on the ground for the forthcoming Assembly elections. And the very debate on it will help the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies advance their electoral plans forcefully.” Keeping all optious open for CM candidates makes interesting for people of Bihar. In the Lok Sabha elections, BJP, along with its National Democratic Alliance partners, had bagged 31 of the 40 seats in Bihar. While the alliance won all of North Bihar’s 18 seats, it emerged victorious on 10 seats under the south-central Bihar region. In July 2015, BJP-led NDA won 13 seats (including 1 independent backed by BJP) out of 24 seats of Bihar Legislative Council elections. JD(U) and RJD combine won 10 seats only, while 1 seat was won by an independent candidate, this victory helps the BJP to shaping a good campaign.
“NDA will win 170- 180 seats in Bihar”
Elections in Bihar have been announced. Both NDA and Mahagathbandhan have gone into war mode for these elections. Both are making high claims. Amidst all these, who will win in the real game, is the question everyone is asking. To find the answer of these questions, Uday India talked to Central Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudhi. Excerpts:
Elections in Bihar have been announced. Who do you think is in delusion?
Delhi is in delusion, not Bihar. Leaders sitting in the Delhi environs feel that Lalu and Nitish still have mettle in them. Sitting here they count that this much percentage of Yadav and Muslims will vote for them. But their mathematics is in danger now. Due to this calculation only, Nitish had gone to Lalu. Now, after their rally recently, both Lalu and Raghuvansh Babu have claimed that the 70 per per cent of the crowd was RJD supporters. One should ask Nitish Kumar if the remaining 30 per cent of the crowd was really his supporters. Lalu, according to this calculation, is still powerful but it cannot be said that his supporters will support Nitish too. Since the seat- sharing between them is of 100-100, it is natural that Lalu will pool in his whole power to get the maximum seats so that he can lead the pack. So their idea has failed completely. Since RJD used to fight over 200 seats earlier, it is but natural that Nitish will be stung by the rebels of RJD. Also JD(U) used to fight over 135 seats, so their rebels will play spoilsport for RJD candidates. The BJP earlier used to fight over 100 seats, so we have 100 more seats to give to better candidates. In these 100, 50 can easily win. The BJP has broader base among the voters. We have people like Jeetan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha, Shakuni Chaudhary, Vrishin Patel, some Muslim leaders and Narendra Singh, so it is very clear that Bihar is very clear unlike Delhi.
RJD has its own claims, JD (U) claims 23 per cent vote share. Both party’s total vote share is said to be around 37 – 38 per per cent. What do you have to say on this?
Claims of JD (U) is imaginary. Yadavs are a confused lot, but it is possible that they can still vote for Lalu. Yadav voters are also with the BJP. Both RJD- JD (U) have their vote banks, but will the people show their belief in them or will they analyse the works of Nitish and who will be remote- controlling the government? Voters will decide only after that. This type of coalition only succeeds if there is a wave in favour of them. All the calculations change after the demarcation of a constituency takes place. They are powerful in areas where Muslim and Yadav population thrives, but if a Yadav contests from that seat, it will change the whole scenario. And this will happen this’ time for sure.
How many seats will you get? Will the BJP get the majority or the NDA?
We will get the majority. RJD- JD(U) are in delusion not the people of the state. We don’t have any seat sharing between us but one thing is clear NDA will win 170- 180 seats in the state.
What will be the issues?
Issues have shifted now. Earlier the Congress used to govern people by dividing them. Maximum riots took place in their regime. People got frustrated and gave Lalu the mandate but Lalu also started playing Mandal politics. People got more frustrated and demanded development. And, for that they voted for Nitish. But, Nitish too, foreseeing furtherance of his politics, silently divided the society. He divided Dalits into Mahadalits, OBCs into atipichhras and Muslims too were divided into Pasmanda, forward and backward. Now, the PM’s visit to the state has given a new impetus to the people’s belief on development.
Nothing brings political rivals together as a bigger, common rival does. According to CSDS’ 2014 post poll survey in Bihar, 19 per cent Yadavs voted for BJP and the famous Muslim-Yadav social coalition was destroyed. Now, Lalu, also a convict, has nothing to offer but a conspiracy theory for Patna’s hacks. Many believe Lalu is playing Sharad Pawar’s role in Bihar polls wrecking the Janata Parivar experiment, and splitting Muslim votes. Lalu cannot contest the polls and there is no leader in RJD big enough to replace CM Nitish Kumar as the leader of the proposed pre-poll alliance. Yet, Lalu may not accept Nitish’s leadership. The RJD was the common enemy that unified major opposition parties more than a decade ago; it is the BJP in that role now. All three parties, the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress, have formed governments in Bihar independently of one another, but the recent shifts in electoral fortunes mean they are fighting for the same anti-BJP political space. Lalu’s call on Nitish may decide Bihar’s election. The two main parties agreeing to fight in the same number of seats must have been a solution that suggested itself. However, after they split 200 of the 243 seats between them, and apportioned 40 for the Congress, Mr. Kumar and Mr. Prasad had only three seats to offer to the Nationalist Congress Party. Not surprisingly, the NCP opted out.
Mr. Kumar envisaged victory when he broke his ties with the BJP after Narendra Modi’s rise to national prominence ahead of last year’s Lok Sabha election. The JD(U) leader must have been hoping to do a repeat of what Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik did. He dumped the BJP as an ally at no political cost. However, Mr. Kumar has had to seek the help of the RJD and the Congress to stay in power. After the JD(U)’s heavy defeat in the Lok Sabha election, he had to quell an inner-party revolt as his hand-picked successor, Jitan Ram Manjhi, defied him repeatedly.
The story of ex-CM Jitan Manjhi is that of ambition disproportionate to known sources of strength. He was a token “Musahar” (a community historically known to be very poor, even by Bihar standards) in Nitish’s cabinet, holding the unimportant SC/ST welfare portfolio. But when he got a taste of power, Manjhi was not ready to play the musical chair to Nitish’s tune. He sent feelers to BJP to, first, try and survive a no-confidence motion and when that proved to be difficult, to hitch a ride with the NDA offering his 12 per cent -16 per cent Mahadalit votes to the NDA. This is a win-win situation for Manjhi, but will it help NDA? One piece of data: just before he was sworn in as CM, Jitan Manjhi had come third in Gaya Lok Sabha seat. Nitish created the Mahadalit constituency and Manjhi. It is still uncertain whether all the Mahadalits who benefitted in terms of scholarships, cycles, puccca houses and jobs as part of Nitish’s targeted welfare schemes would switch sides to Manjhi. But no one’s writing him off. His presence may be the swing factor according to political pundits.
While by entering into a poll pact with Lalu Prasad, the JD(U) leader risks alienating sections of his own core constituency, which was built up over the years on an anti-Lalu Prasad platform. After campaigning against Mr. Prasad for years over issues such as corruption and law and order, Nitish Kumar will have to fight off the perception that his new alliance is motivated solely by his desire to stay in power and keep the BJP out. In electoral arithmetic, two plus two plus one is not always five.
The other unpredictable factor is the presence of smaller parties, like the one floated by Pappu Yadav called Jana Adhikar Party, whose posters are competing with those of the two main rivals in Patna. Along with that, the decision of the Left parties to go alone might cause a dent in the “secular” vote, according to observers. Suspense over Samajwadi Party remaining in the nascent anti-BJP Grand Alliance for the coming Bihar Assembly polls ended with the party deciding to fight the elections on its own and blamed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for a “tilt” towards Congress. Party may contest all 243 seats alone in upcoming election. AIMIM president Owaisi’s roar makes the grand alliance nervous, as the party might contest in 25 seats.
All said and done, at the moment, the political situation in Bihar is balanced on the razor’s edge. It is going to be a bloody fight.
By Sanjay K bissoyi