Bihar Elections – Five Fronts in the Fray

Ideology has taken a backseat and alliances have been contrived on the basis of personal equations among leaders.

By Anish Ankur

A five-phase election schedule has been announced for Bihar Assembly. What was earlier thought to be a bipolar contest in the State with Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi leading the two prominent fronts has given way to five fronts with rebels and dissidents grouping on hurriedly gathered platforms. But NDA and what is being touted as Grand Secular Alliance remain the main rivals.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Narendra Modi finalized seat-sharing after a lot of drama. The BJP will be fighting 160 seats while Ramvilas Paswan-led LJP has been assigned 40 and Upendra Kushawaha’s RSLP 23. Due to hard bargaining from ex-CM Jitanram Manjhi, HAM(S) was able to bag 20 seats. Five of the HAM(S) candidates will be fighting on the BJP symbol.

Heartburn
But there is a lot of heartburn in the NDA. The LJP is not happy with the new arrangement. There are murmurings of protest among the non-BJP NDA partners. Senor leader of HAM(S), Devendra Prasad Yadav left the party accusing Manjhi of abject surrender before the BJP President Amit Shah. BJP’s unilateral decision of announcing the name of first phase candidates invited criticism from these junior allies who have accused the BJP of ‘big brotherly, arrogant attitude’. Since the election is round the corner, it is unlikely that the resentment will come to the fore and muddy the course.
But most dramatic political development happened in Grand Secular Alliance where two of its expected partners, Tariq Anwar-led NCP and Mulayam Singh led-SP are now fighting independently. Both were unsatisfied with the seat sharing arrangement. The NCP walked out of grand alliance for not being taken on board while working out seat-sharing talks.
But the Mulayam Singh led-Samajwadi Party’s (SP) case is most shocking for most of the political pundits. When NCP fell out of the secular alliance, the SP was given five seats. Then came the much awaited August 30 rally of the Grand Secular Alliance which came as a huge morale booster for Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and the Congress. Presence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi added strength to the secular front. SP leader Shivpal’s Singh Yadav was also present in the rally at the historic Gandhi Maidan.
But suddenly within a few days Mulayam Singh Yadav broke off the alliance under the pretext of not being given dignified representation in the secular alliance. But soon this pretext gave way to another theory in which some hidden hand of Central Government have played the game from behind the curtains. It is a common knowledge that arrest of contractor Yadav Singh in UP and his alleged links with the some prominent members of Mulayam Singh family compelled the SP to severe relations with the Secular Alliance. The Central Government played an obvious role in this dramatic turnaround of SP.

‘Third Front’ a non-entity
Now SP along with NCP, has formed another front in the State polls with four smaller parties, all of whom are non-entities in the States. Though they call themselves the ‘Third Front’ of Bihar polls, it is plain that even the SP has never been a force to reckon with in Bihar. In the last Assembly elections SP fought all the 243 seats but drew a blank. In reality, the ‘Third Front’ is a platform is wide open to dissidents, rebels of all parties. Interestingly Lalu Prasad’s new son-in-law who happens to be the grandson of Mulayam Singh, has been entrusted to campaign for this anti-Lalu front.
Left block comprising six parties of CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), FB, RSP and SUCI(C) made their seat adjustment amicably compared to other parties but friendly fight at some seats cannot be ruled out.

MIM Imponderables
The All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul Muslimeen (or MIM, to be brief) leader Asaduddin Owaisi has also announced its decision to contest Bihar elections. Akhtarul Imam will be the leading face of MIM in Bihar. It is fielding 24 candidates in Seemanchal region comprising districts of Katihar, Kishanganj, Araria and Purnia. MIM’s entry in the poll has thrown a challenge to secular alliance. This can pose serious danger for JD (U)-RJD-Congress combine particularly in Seemanchal. His visibility in Bihar media is growing as the elections are drawing closer. Reacting on Owaisi’s entry political analyst Irshadul Haque says, “Since MIM is a new party how it will influence the Muslim votes is a matter of guess. This possibility cannot be ruled out that presence of Owaisi in poll arena can polarize voters on communal line benefiting BJP”
Grand secular alliance partners completed its seat adjustment among themselves. Many sitting MLAs of JD(U) have been denied ticket. It has created a lot of internal squabbles within the party. Ticket distribution process triggered a dissent as well as revolt in almost every party. Rebels will be the thorn in the side for all of them. Most rebels belong to the ruling JD(U). JD(U) conceded 38 sitting seats to the RJD and the Congress. The Party is facing rebellion by the MLAs who have been denied ticket for one reason or the other.

Rebelling Sons-in law
The LJP leader and MP Ram Singh and son-in-law of Ramvilas Paswan, Anil Kumar Sadhu, President of Dalit Sena, turned rebels accusing father-son duo of selling tickets to those with moneybags. Same charge has been leveled against Upendra Kushwaha-Arun Kumar duo of RSLP. A lot of BJP leaders who could not get ticket are also raising a hue and cry. BJP’s earlier resolve of not giving ticket to the family members of its leaders could not withstand the ground reality of the State and a host of its leaders were obliged with their kith and kin getting the party ticket. Those denied have turned rebels. However, the dust will take some time to settle.

All eyes on Raghopur
A lot of eyes are riveted over Raghopur seat, a bastion of Lalu Yadav. In the 2010 Assembly election Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi was defeated by JD(U)’s Satish Prasad. Now Lalu’s younger son Tejaswi Yadav has been fielded from Raghopur by the RJD. Satish has moved to the BJP has now been given ticket. All that is evident is that Lalu Prasad is repeating the mistake of 2014 Parliamentary election. BJP is following the strategy of wooing the Yadav votebank and is fielding at least one Yadav candidate in every district of Bihar.

BJP Fields 2 Muslims
Despite its claim to giving adequate representation to Muslims, the BJP has fielded only two Muslim candidates out of the 153 seats, i.e., Saba Zafar and Abdul Rahman. While Zafar is the saffron party’s sitting member, Rahman has been fielded from Kochadhaman in Kishanganj district.
None of three prominent Muslim faces of BJP, who switched over to JD(U), Jamshed Ashraf, Monazir Hasan and Sabir Ali have been fielded by the JDU. The BJP minority cell had recommended five names but none of the names appeared in the first lists. Now BJP as part of a strategy the Muslim dominated constituencies or such seats where minorities have significant presence has allotted to the alliance partners.

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