In Patna last April, BJP president Amit Shah had asserted that the NDA will come to power in the upcoming Assembly election in Bihar. He was speaking at a rally to commemorate the 124th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, and the hidden agenda of the rally was to woo the 18 percent Dalits who are a strong vote bank in the state. “I want to tell Lalu that your alliance with JD (U) will yield zero results. Zero plus zero would be zero, no matter how hard you try”, he said.
For the BJP, it is a do or die situation in the state. According to bjp leaders, the party cannot afford a defeat in Bihar and it will do whatever it can to come to power. It seems that the BJP will use its sharpest weapon — Narendra Modi — to win the election.
But in the last few days, the situation has changed drastically in the state. Erstwhile foes — RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and Chief Minister and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar — have decided to end their animosity and form an alliance; moreover Lalu has declared that Nitish will be their chief ministerial candidate. The Congress and the NCP may also join their fold soon. A six member committee has been constituted by the alliance to decide on ticket distribution and seat-sharing issues. According to sources, both the parties will contest on 100 seats each and the rest will go to the other allies. The Left parties seem ambivalent about joining the alliance due to the presence of the Congress. For the time being, they are in a wait and watch mode.
In the 2014 general election, the BJP-led NDA won 31 out of 40 seats in the state with a vote share of 45.3 percent. The bjp had won 22 seats while its allies, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RSLP) and the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) bagged three and six seats, respectively. The JD (U), RJD Congress and the NCP came together in the bypolls soon after the Lok Sabha election and won six out of 10 seats and their vote share increased to 44.9 from 40.3 percent in 2014 while the NDA’s vote share dipped to 37.3 percent. It was an eye opener for both the state parties that if they form an alliance, they could stop the Modi-Shah juggernaut. The erstwhile socialist parties under Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav had decided to merge and form the Janata Parivar party at the national level. But soon glitches developed and the move was aborted. But even after the logjam, Lalu and Nitish were in a mood to form an alliance, initially. However, Lalu raised the red flag and said openly that he wouldn’t agree on Nitish as the cm candidate. Since then, Mulayam has acted as a mediator between the two parties and understanding was reached earlier this month to form an alliance and make Nitish the chief ministerial candidate.
According to sources, it might not be easy for the BJP to get back into the driving seat this time. The JD (U) — RJD alliance is capable of attract a big chunk of voters, including obc-Muslims. Nitish has still got the image of an efficient chief minister and he could attract a large number of Dalit-Mahadalit votes, which constitute 16.5 percent of the total population. Moreover, the alliance will use issues such as agrarian crisis, land acquisition policy, black money and the Modi government’s pro-corporate image to attract voters.
The bjp is not in a situation to afford one more ‘Delhi-like’ defeat. It is trying to repeat what it did in Haryana and Maharashtra, where Modi was the main electoral symbol. In Bihar, it does not have a credible face to project as the cm candidate, other than former deputy cm Sushil Kumar Modi. To pre-empt a factional feud within the party, the BJP’s central leadership might choose to contest without a cm candidate.
Former cm and Nitish Kumar’s critic Jitan Ram Manjhi might also join hands with the BJP. This would boost their chances as Manjhi has a hold among the Mahadalit community. He recently met Modi in Delhi and indications are that he is ready to align with the Sangh Parivar.