Although the Bihar assembly election is scheduled to be held in October and November even after a lot of controversy regarding the polling of votes and rallies amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the seat-sharing talks are yet to begin.
Both the ruling party National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the opposition Grand Alliance have decided to stay quiet and follow the strategy of wait and watch for now, as the poll preparations progress.
The NDA had earlier expressed that it would conduct the polls under the leadership for the current Prime Minister Nitish Kumar, but to maintain its relationship with its two allies at the center- the Janata Dal(U) or JD(U), and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), it is likely to perform a balancing act.
By inducting several party hoppers, JD(U) has tried to strengthen itself for the upcoming polls. The chief of Hindustani Awam Morcha and the former CM of Bihar, Jitan Ram Manjhi had quit the GA and joined NDA, last week. This hopping has increased the chances and scope of the ruling party’s alliances in the election for the 243 member Bihar Assembly.
But not all alliances benefit the coalition. The LJP President Chirag Paswan has been a visible problem for the CM and has been relentlessly attacking Nitish Kumar and praising the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for cutting his benefits from the assembly slack.
In 2015, LJP could only win 2 seats out of the conducted 42 seats. Chirag Paswan doesn’t want to compromise with his aspirations for Bihar, but he doesn’t seem like quitting NDA too. He has put the CM in a tight position.
The party wants to contest in as many seats this time around as well while citing a 100% winning rate in last year’s parliamentary polls. The JD (U) has steered clear of the seat-sharing arrangement with the LJP. The JD (U) wants the BJP to handle the vexed issue as the party maintains that it does not have an alliance with the LJP in Bihar. In between all this happening, the BJP has been giving very calculated and measured responses.
Nominated by the Governor, the 12 seats to the Bihar Legislative Council is also non-existent as of now.
The halt in several decisions is because of the disagreement between BJP and JD(U) over giving a seat to the LJP in the coming election.
In this season of pre-poll ferment, six sitting legislators of the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) have defected to the JD (U).
Sanjay Jaiswal, the BJP state president, is trying to stop the hopping and defection and put up a united front. The Yashwant group: possibilities of shifting paradigms in the Bihar Assembly Election
“We will work together on our traditional seats, as we have a strong force of committed party workers,” he said, according to a report by the Hindustan Times.
Most of the RJD turncoat lawmakers had won big in 2015 assembly polls, i.e. Chandrika Rai defeated LJP’s Chotelal Rai from Parsa in 2015, Dr. Faraz Fatmi of the RJP defeated his BJP rival Ashok Kumar Yadav, Jai Vardhan Yadav defeated Ram Janm Sharma and won the Paliganj seat in the previous assembly election, and BJP’s Usha Vidyarthi had won the seat in 2010 and is likely to stake her claim again.
Maheshwar Prasad, 5-time MLA from Gaighat also swung to the ruling JD(U). In 2015, Yadav defeated BJP’s Veena Devi by 3,500 votes.
A 3-time RJD MLA from Patepur, Prema Choudhary has also switched and is believed to create similar trouble as Yadav. Choudhary had defeated BJP’s Mahendra Baitha in 2010. It has been a Baitha vs Choudhary show in Patepur since 1995.
With ever-rising aspirations for winning seats and combinations, Bihar can witness another round of Party hopping. One such suspect is Hilsa RJD MLA Shakti Singh Yadav and he may switch over to the JD(U).
Even though the next move is not clear, RJD veteran Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is also upset with the party’s move to induct Rama Singh.
JD (U) minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav has attributed the defections to CM Kumar’s pull as a charismatic leader in state politics.
The pressure on the BJP to satisfy all its NDA constituents would be immense and decisions difficult.
“That is the art of politics. The JD (U) is doing its own brand of politics through growing bonhomie with Manjhi in a bid to cut the LJP to size. However, the LJP will not compromise its presence in the Union Cabinet and national politics. The LJP is indulging in pressure politics, which is quite natural. Ultimately, it will require deft handling by the BJP and JD (U) may have to make some compromises,” said NK Choudhary, former head, department of economics, Patna University.