Will PM Narendra Modi’s magic woo Bihar?
After Delhi, Bihar is the next litmus test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Bharatiya Janata Party had faced an unexpected defeat in Delhi at the hands of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party.
Although the BJP-led NDA has won many elections at every level after 2014 Indian General Elections, winning Bihar is very significant for the Modi-led coalition.
Modi, who launched his party's campaign for the upcoming Bihar Assembly Elections with a rally at Muzaffarpur, upped the ante with the announcement of the huge package for the development of the state.
The BJP’s backing to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s erstwhile ally Jitan Ram Manjhi has further upset the anti-NDA forces. The political commutation in Bihar is very interesting as this is the first election after the BJP split with the JD(U) in 2013.
New groupings have emerged to stop Modi’s juggernaut. The most notable is ‘Grand Alliance’, which comprises the Sharad Yadav-led JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and Sonia Gandhi-led Indian National Congress. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) were also its constituents, but the duo parted ways later over seat-sharing differences.
The BJP's three regional allies in Bihar are all new friends. The party had contested the last Assembly Elections (2010) as the junior partner of Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and had defeated the partnership of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan.
Interestingly, Lalu is now a partner with Nitish Kumar for the upcoming elections. And Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Jan Shakti Party is a minister in Narendra Modi government.
The BJP had fought 2014 polls along with Paswan and Upendra Khushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) winning 32 of 40 seats in Bihar. For the Bihar polls, it added to the team Jitan Ram Manjhi’s new party the Hindustan Awam Manch (Secular).
Jitan Ram Manjhi was a part of the JD(U) and made the Bihar chief minister less than a year earlier. Later, he was asked to quit the seat for former CM Nitish Kumar. Notably, Kumar had resigned from the post after his party fared poorly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Manjhi was installed as the CM, but now Kumar wanted his post back. 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).
Later, Manjhi formed a new party – HAM (Secular), and allied with the BJP. Upendra Khushawa, who was in the JD(U) in 2010, is now BJP’s ally.
Of the 243 seats in the Bihar Assembly, the BJP will contest 160 seats, LJP 40 seats, RLSP 23 seats and Manjhi's HAM will contest 20 seats.
However, earlier reports had suggested tug of war in the NDA over seat-sharing, the parties later dismissed them.
(Election to Bihar’s 243 Assembly seats would take place over five phases starting October 12. Votes will be counted on November 08.)