Can grand alliance in Bihar halt Modi return to power
The grand alliance of major opposition parties in Bihar is likely to halt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s return to power at the centre in the ensuing elections to the Lok Sabha as its social base is wider and strong among the voters then the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
If the opposition alliance manages to check the growth of the BJP-JD (U) combine in Bihar that sends 40 seats to the lower House of Parliament , it would be difficult for Modi to stage a come-back. With its social engineering formula under its belt intact “Mahagathbandan”, as the opposition alliance is popularly called, has the potential of bringing down NDA tally from double digit in Bihar.
The current general elections in Bihar is also a litmus test for the JD (U) leader and the chief minister Nitish Kumar who forces the other parties into a realignment of forces process each time Kumar ditches an old friend to choose a new ally. After shifting political allies so frequently, the chief minister Kumar has lost some political credibility despite his efforts to couch opportunism in an idealistic garb. During previous Lok Sabha elections, Kumar broke away with the BJP on the issue of Modi is being projected as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.
Political manoeuvres have allowed Kumar to continue as chief minister as he alternately took sides against communalism and corruption. With sizeable chunks of Yadav and Muslim communities along with some other most backward communities on their side, the opposition alliance is throwing a stiff challenge to the chief minister and his ally BJP. It is to be seen in the ongoing elections whether Kumar still holds grip on the other backward casts as he did in the past because some of OBC allies of NDA have left and joined the opposition bandwagon giving jolt to Kumar and his friends in the BJP. This election would also be Kumar’s first electoral test as an NDA constituent after he parted company with the opposition led alliance that brought him back to power in the previous assembly elections.
The RJD, a key regional player in the state that is heading the opposition alliance has come up as a strong contender to challenge Modi in Bihar. The RJD formed by former Bihar chief minister and a formidable OBC leader Lalu Yadav is working over-time to consolidate non-Yadav OBC votes. The party for the first time is contesting in less than 25 seats as it hopes that its smaller allies, which hold sway on some OBC voters, would yield rich dividend in the elections.
The most significant part of the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 in Bihar is that the chief minister who leads the ruling NDA alliance in the state is campaigning to seek another term for Prime Minister Modi against whose candidature for the office of Prime Minister, he had left the NDA. In the previous general elections Nitish Kumar was a vocal critic of Modi. He came back to NDA in July 2017 on the ground that his role was limited to handle the affairs of Bihar as chief minister. He will have to go under another test as the state is going to poll for the first time after he declared Bihar as dry state. The NDA had secured 31 seats in Bihar during last Lok Sabha elections held in 2014 and that too without having Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) on its side.
The contest in the politically sensitive state of Bihar this time will be bipolar in the absence of any third alliance. The contest is between two major political formations of NDA and opposition grand alliance, which includes the RJD, Congress, RLSP, HAM and VIP. The Left parties this time fighting the Lok Sabha polls separately and are not part of any of the alliance. On the one hand, Kumar is BJP’s alternative face of backward cast politics, Tejashwi, the son of Lalu Yadav views polls as a chance to bring non-Yadavs among OBC voters back to his party fold.
Whereas the NDA is banking upon its OBC face Nitish Kumar, and has given five more seats from its quota to JD (U), the RJD is contesting only on 19 seats for the first time since the party came into being in Bihar, even in alliance. The idea is to accommodate more candidates from other allies particularly those who belong to most backward sections.
As far as social base in Bihar is concerned, the cast of a candidate had been the main criteria for the candidate selection of both the political formations. A glance over the lists of both the formations portrays that ruling NDA has focussed on the political combination of upper castes (BJP), JD (U) and LJP that have OBCs, particularly most backward cast votes, the grand alliance hopes to expand its social base with the support of its smaller allies like HAM of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and former union minister Uprendra Prasad Kushwaha besides Muslim and Yadav on its side.
One thing that the electorate and leaders of Bihar from both sides will miss during ensuing Lok Sabha elections is absence of star campaigner Lalu Yadav who was just denied bail by the apex court. His absence has also come as an opportunity for his son Tejeshwai Yadav to emerge as a star campaigner and prove his mantle.
During the election campaign trail the ruling NDA has been trying to drive home the air strikes that Indian Air Force launched against Pakistan. The BJP-led NDA is confident of garnering popular votes on this count.
‘The surgical strike by the Indian Air Force against Pakistan has proved beyond any doubt that Modi is fit to handle terrorism. Wing Commander Abhinandan’s release from Pakistan was only result of tough stand taken by Modi, ‘said a senior BJP leader from the state.