More than a year after he helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win parliamentary majority, Narendra Modi is still a craze among the countrymen. No matter how much his political foes try to water down the existence of the Modi wave that swept the entire country last year, the truth is that the results of 2014 General Elections still give them jitters.
In a bid to counter the Modi wave in the upcoming Assembly Elections in Bihar, several parties have joined hands. The so-called ‘Grand Alliance’ took birth in Bihar not on the basis of any similarity in ideology, but due to compulsion.
Barring the debacle in Delhi, the BJP has won almost every single election at every level after 2014 polls. The necessity to survive and defeat the BJP has pushed anti-NDA forces to come together in Bihar.
Notably, some of these anti-NDA forces were allies of the BJP and rivals of each other in the past.
So, the new political arithmetic which has arisen in the Land of Buddha has gripped the nation, making the upcoming polls as one of the most interesting battles to look out for.
The parties which had joined the ‘Grand Alliance’ in the beginning were the Sharad Yadav-led JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), HD Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular), Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal and the Chandra Shekhar-founded Samajwadi Janata Party (Rashtriya). However, differences started emerging among the alliance partners over seat-sharing ahead of the polls.
Janata Dal (United) had fought last Assembly Elections in Bihar with the Bharatiya Janata Party as its junior partner. The game has completely changed now. The JD(U) and BJP are now embroiled in a face-to-face contest.
Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal was the staunch rival of JD(U) till last year; however, the two are now fighting polls together.
Political tensions had gripped Bihar much before the dates were announced for Assembly Elections in the state.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was installed as Bihar chief minister last year after JD(U) fared poorly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, was asked to vacate the seat for former CM Nitish Kumar months ahead of the Assembly Elections. Kumar wanted the post back so as to lead the election campaign.
However, Manjhi’s reluctance to quit led to his expulsion from the party. The Bharatiya Janata Party then announced its decision to back Manjhi in a vote of confidence.
Albeit Manjhi could not muster enough support to retain power, yet his closeness to the BJP indicated a tough time ahead for the JD(U).
In the 243-member Bihar Assembly, five seats were allotted to SP, 100 seats each to RJD and JD(U) each, while the Congress was given 40 seats. The Samajwadi Party had initially demanded 47 seats; however, it had finally agreed to 12, but the alliance’s decision to give it not more than five seats led the 'humiliated' party to part its ways. The JD(U)-RJD’s alleged closeness to the Congress party had also made the SP infuriated.
Meanwhile, the coalition also saw Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leave mid-way. The 'Grand Alliance' was now left with only Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Congress.
What is interesting is the fact that Lalu is allegedly miffed with Rahul Gandhi, so much so that the RJD leader did not even attend the Congress vice president’s rally in Bihar. Five years ago, Rahul Gandhi had strategically decided not to ally with Lalu Yadav and contested alone in Bihar.
The Congress had at that time won four out of all 243 seats it contested. During the campaigning for this year’s polls, Lalu had refused to attend Gandhi’s rally. In fact, as soon as the Congress leader flew to the US, the BJP spared no time in hitting out at the alliance, saying Rahul Gandhi was forced to stay away from the impending polls.
Nitish Kumar had ended his party's 18-year alliance with the BJP in 2013 because he was opposed to making Narendra Modi prime ministerial candidate. Who gained and who lost in the 2014 polls is history. What is to be seen is whether the decision of the different-minded parties to join hands to defeat a coalition will prove to be an epic failure or success.
(Election to Bihar’s 243 Assembly seats would take place over five phases starting October 12. Votes will be counted on November 08.)