In the crucial political battle of Bihar, the NDA-led BJP appears to have lost the first round due to issues related to seat sharing and ticket distribution. While two important issues in the Grand Alliance (GA), led by Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sonia Gandhi, posed no serious threats to its electoral prospects. The NDA, which comprises of BJP , LJP (Lok Janshakti Party), HAM (Hindustani Awam Morcha) and RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party), has been at the receiving end of their own committed party workers and leaders.
The NDA managed to announce the seats with the BJP contesting 159, LJP 40, RLSP 23 and HAM 21.
The NDA leaders are worried about the adverse impact on the prospect of the candidates in all the 243 Assembly constituencies following unchecked discontent among their workers besides some prominent and credible stalwarts. A sitting MLA wishing anonymity tells TEHELKA, “For sure we have to incur the wrath of the enraged cadres and leaders following the ticket distribution to many wrong and undeserving candidates.”
For the GA, the seat sharing issue was a bloodless operation. A mere three rounds of discussion among the leaders of the Congress, the Janata Dal (United) and the RJD did the job for them. The JD (U) and RJD shared 101 seats each and the Congress got 41. Not a single influential leader of the GA raised the voice of dissent against the process of seat sharing.
By playing the role of big brother, the JD (U) happily gave away its 37 winnable seats to their trustworthy partners — 25 seats to the RJD and 12 seats to the Congress. On the other hand, without any fuss, the RJD sacrificed its five winnable seats to JD(U)
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad had held only four meetings to select the candidates in all the 202 constituencies. Both leaders also helped the Congress to pick up their candidates for the 41 seats. In fact, the Congress has been understandably reduced to an appendage in Bihar, leading to its dependence on the two regional political satraps.
There was no strong protest against the ticket distribution in the GA, though a few aspirants accused Lalu of nepotism and taking bribe from some candidates. They include sitting MLAs of Barahara and Jagdishpur — Raghwendra Pratap Singh and Bhai Dinesh respectively. But the duo lost their image among the party workers and people for many reasons including their covert association with the BJP. Both the legislators also tried their best to get tickets from the saffron party.
The JD(U) has denied tickets to nearly 32 sitting MLAs as these legislators lost their credibility among the leaders and the electorates. Fifteen of them got tickets from the NDA, while Sumit Singh, son of HAM veteran leader Narendra Singh, is trying his luck as an independent candidate from Jamui constituency. Significantly, none of them accused Nitish Kumar of selling tickets or indulgence in parivarwaad.
The scenario in the NDA camp is visibly chaotic and unsavoury over various issues. The leaders were forced to hold several parleys to settle the seat sharing issues. As of 30 September, the BJP and the LJP have not been able to choose candidates for three and one seats respectively.
HAM leader and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had openly threatened to cut his ties with the NDA , forcing the BJP to fall in his line. Union Minister and RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha publicly aired his disagreement over the seat distribution process. Finally, BJP President Amit Shah took the initiative to pacify Kushwaha.
Trading inappropriate comments laced with baseless allegations by two Dalit leaders, Ram Vilas Paswan and Manjhi only made matters worse for the NDA, which claims to provide good governance in Bihar if they are voted to power.
Adding on to the woes, BJP MPs from Arrah and Sasaram, Raj Kumar Singh and Chhedi Paswan, peeled of the “party with difference” label by levelling grave charges of corruption. Former home secretary and MP R K Singh alleged that party tickets were sold to criminals and right candidates were ignored.
Former top bureaucrat-turned-politician, who has a clean image, also made a scathing attack on the state leadership and a possible CM candidate for denying the tickets to 15 sitting MLAs of the BJP. The BJP’s central leadership suffered a lot due to R K Singh’s statement. Some of the top party leaders including Home Minister Rajnath Singh tried to cajole him but in vain. “Many futile attempts were made by the party heavyweights to dissuade R K Singh from making such an acidic statement,” says a party source.
Chhedi Paswan has expressed his grievances on the party adopting a dual formula in the selection of candidates. “If the leadership had already decided not to field close relatives of the MPs in the fray then why did it give tickets to sons of CP Thakur (Rajya Sabha MP) and Ashwani Chaubey (Lok Sabha MP from Buxar)?” asks Chhedi.
The BJP MLA from Raghunath constituency, Vikram Kunwar added salt to injury by saying that some top leaders of the party took Rs 2 crore as bribe from Manoj Singh, a sharp shooter of jailed notorious criminal Mohammad Shahabuddin, to allot a seat. Though Manoj Singh tells TEHELKA, “Vikram Kunwar has lost his mental balance after he was denied ticket by the party. I will take sanyaas from the politics if he proves charges of corruption behind my candidature.”
The LJP MP from Vaishali, Ram Kishore Singh took arms against his party boss Ram Vilas Paswan. “The LJP top leaders have distributed tickets by taking money and fielded family members,” alleges Kishore. “The genuine party workers are enraged with the dictatorial behaviour of Paswan and his son, Chirag Paswan.”
All is not well even in RLSP and HAM. Senior leader of RLSP, Ashok Gupta had burst into tears during a press conference addressed by Kushwaha in Delhi on 24 September. He told media persons that Kushwaha had sold all the tickets to criminals and rich people.
Another leader, Rajkumar Singh, who was supposed to be the party candidate from Kahlgaon constituency, tells TEHELKA , “Top leaders of the parties in the NDA are of the same mindset, they are ignoring full-time workers.” Rajkumar had joined RLSP from JD(U) last year after he was assured of a seat by Kushwaha.
A recent statement made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on caste-based reservation has landed the NDA in fresh trouble. Lalu Prasad has made Bhagwat comment as a sharp weapon to lure the voters belonging to the backward community, extremely backward castes and Dalits that together constitutes 72 percent of the total population in Bihar.
An office-bearer of the BJP says off the record,” Bhagwatjee has committed a blunder. It was not an opportune time to open mouth on such sensitive issues. I foresee possibility of backward castes and Dalits consolidating against us in the election.”
Encouraged by tu-tu and mai-mai in the NDA camp and the untimely statement of Bhagwat, RJD leader and Ex-MP Jagdanand claims, “The GA has scored over the NDA in the initial stage of the battle for power. That made clear that we will have the last laugh.”
Strategists who have the responsibility to ensure victory of the NDA at any cost in order to save the government at the Centre from any kind of upheaval, however, are reported to be scared. They are afraid of loss of votes during the polls due to the statements made by the influential leaders of the party.