Patna: Pushed to the margins of Bihar
politics, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who till a few years back
dominated the state`s political landscape, is set to wage a
do-or-die battle in the coming assembly elections to reemerge
as the top leader.
Between 1990 and February, 2005 Lalu held undisputed sway
over Bihar`s caste-dominated politics by deftly manipulating
minority votes and the Mandal dynamics.
In the last year`s Lok Sabha elections, Prasad entered
into an alliance with LJP president Ramvilas Paswan to plot a
great come-back, but instead suffered serious reverses.
Standing in the crossroads of political future, Prasad`s
one surefire strategy will be to exploit the near-certain
division in `secular` votes in the elections.
RJD general secretary Ramkripal Yadav expressed as much
when he said, ``Our aim will be to garner as many secular
votes as possible in the elections.``
The RJD is also waiting anxiously for the declaration of
list of candidates by the Congress in order to tailor its list
RJD, however, is not the only contender for the secular
vote pie. For instance, Congress, buoyed with the success of
Rahul Gandhi and other central leaders` visit to the state, is
contesting from all 243 seats in a determined bid to make a
major dent in secular votes.
Among others eyeing for secular votes are the BSP of
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Samajwadi Party of
Mulayam Singh Yadav, besides the Left parties comprising the
CPI, CPI-M and CPI-ML (Liberation) which have announced that
they would put up common candidates in around 200
Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, is keen to bite into the
minority vote cake. His NDA is banking on the launch of a
number of development and welfare schemes for the minorities
in the past five years.
State JD-U president Vijay Kumar Chowdhury is hopeful
that the bringing to justice of the Bhagalpur riot offenders
by reopening the cases will get reflected in the election in
favour of his party.
``Our party will bag a sizable chunk of minority votes
because of a number of measures the NDA government has taken
for the uplift of the minorities. I am sure the voters will
keep the fact in mind,`` Chowdhury said.
Till 1998, Lalu, when he was at his peak, pulled nearly
30 per cent of the votes in Bihar elections. In February, 2005
Assembly elections, Lalu garnered near 25 per cent votes which
included Muslim and Yadav votes in majority.
In the same election, Ram Vilas Paswan`s Lok Janshakti
Party played a spoiler to Lalu taking away nearly 12.3 per
cent of popular votes including those of the most backward
castes - mostly Paswans - and Muslims.
It made a dent in the RJD vote bank which resulted in
the increase of NDA’s seats tally up to 93, though there was
no such rise in NDA’s vote percentage.
Thereafter, the political rivalry among Nitish, Lalu and
Paswan resulted in a midterm election as none of the camps
were able to form the government in Bihar.
Attacked from all corners for the mid-term polls, Paswan
paid the price with near one per cent decline in his vote
share and in result, LJP slumped from 29 to 13 seats.
Paswan’s voters shifted towards the NDA which resulted in
a marked rise in NDA’s seats tally. Though NDA’s vote share
witnessed a rise of near two per cent of the popular votes,
its total tally rose above 140.
Master tactician as he is, Lalu Prasad is well aware that
even though his citadel was broken after 15 years, there
wasn’t much decline in his party`s vote share. Lalu’s net
voteshare in October, 2005 Assembly election slipped by only
1.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent.
Afterwards, Lalu has successfully kept his vote share in
the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and a string of by-elections in
Keeping the fact in his mind, the RJD boss has wisely
launched a frontal attack on the Congress, blaming it for the
`lls` of Bihar. He went to the extent of accusing the party
of `giving an advantage to the BJP` and alleged that the two
national parties were `hand-in-glove`.
Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, charges his arch rival
Prasad with entering into a `secret understanding` with the
Congress evident from the RJD leader occupying a front seat
in the Lok Sabha despite having only four MPs.
Prasad`s cold calculations notwithstanding, the one
obstacle he is likely to face is the successful development
story scripted by Nitish Kumar`s NDA government, feel the