Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Along with Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is pinning its hopes on Bihar to come back to power after a decade. It is important for the BJP that Bihar votes in its favour if its prime ministerial candidate for 2014 General Elections, Narendra Modi, is to realise his dream of occupying the top post of the country.
Bihar has 40 parliamentary seats. It is a state where caste and religion play an important part in determining the voting patterns. Key castes in Bihar are the Kurmis, Yadavs, Muslims, Scheduled Castes and the upper castes, comprising mainly of Rajputs, Brahmins and Bhumiyars. In the way politics is played out in this part of the country, all political parties have wooed one or the other caste combination in the past, both in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
In the era before RJD and Lalu Prasad Yadav arrived on the scene, it was the Congress that ruled for years mainly with the backing of the upper castes and the Muslims. All that changed with the arrival of Lalu, who stormed the scene in 1990 and ruled for 15 years primarily milking the famous M-Y (Muslim-Yadav) combination.
The RJD domination was dealt a brutal blow by the JD(U)-BJP alliance in 2005 which saw Nitish Kumar donning the cap of the Chief Minister. Though he had come to the power promising good governance and better law and order situation, which had taken more than a beating during Lalu’s time, Nitish’s social engineering also reaped major dividends for him at the cost of rival parties like the RJD and the LJP. He divided the Scheduled Castes of Bihar into Dalits and Mahadalits. Ram Vilas Paswan’s caste was categorized as Dalit and the rest of SC population was termed as Mahadalit.
However, Nitish by and large kept his poll promises and he took Bihar on the path of development, with a visibly better law and order situation, so much so that the BJP-JD(U) combine came back to power in the Assembly polls in 2010 with a bigger mandate. And the mandate was mainly seen as a referendum for the man of the moment then – Nitish Kumar.
But between 2010 and 2014 much water has flown under the bridge. JD(U) snapped its 17-year-old ties with the BJP last year over the issue of growing clout of Modi. Nitish was vehemently opposed to the anointment of Modi as NDA’s PM candidate and when the Gujarat CM was named as BJP’s poll panel chief in Goa in June 2013, it was time to bid goodbye for the Bihar CM. It is said that two factors were instrumental in Nitish making the move – around thirteen percent of Muslim population in the state and his own ambitions of becoming the PM.
But as they say, politics is a great leveller. In his second innings as the CM and especially after breaking his partnership with the BJP, Nitish has been accused of two things amongst others – going soft on his resolve towards zero tolerance towards corruption and playing it safe with terror related cases in order to appease the minority vote bank. He also earned the wrath of the upper caste for snapping ties with the BJP.
Meanwhile, Modi gave extra attention to the state, holding rallies after rallies. His ‘Hunkar’ rally in October last year in which lakhs turned up even when bombs went off in the rally ground, was probably the turning point, wherein the BJP realised that the momentum was in their favour.
Most of the exit polls have predicted a drubbing for Nitish`s party and have said that the JD(U) may win less than 10 seats. On the other hand they have given an average of 20 to 25 seats to BJP.
In 2009, the vote share of BJP was 14 percent, whereas the JD(U) had got 24 percent of the vote share. Nitish had won 20 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 and the BJP 12. The NDA had won 32 seats in total.
Meanwhile, Lalu would be hoping that there is a crystallisation of RJD votes and a resurgence in his popularity, ironically, after his conviction in the Fodder Scam. As for the Congress, it has been on a losing ground in Bihar in recent times and is considered a fringe player in the state. It won a mere two seats in the 2009 General Elections when it fought the polls alone. The RJD had won four seats.
The RJD is in alliance with the Congress and the NCP in Bihar.
However, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar dismissed the projections of exit polls and told reporters that they should wait for the results to be announced.