The recently-concluded elections hold key lessons for the upcoming state elections.
Bihar’s fragmented populace has been hoping for development for over decades now. But the grand alliance of Janata Dal (United) (JDU) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has failed to take cognisance of the grass-roots issues and changing aspirations of the people.
The recently-concluded MLC, or Member of Legislative Council, elections show that the alliance has failed to strike a chord among the lower as well as upper classes and even the most deprived sections of Bihar’s masses.
The MLC elections in Bihar presented a major opportunity and a challenge for the JD(U) and RJD team. But none of these parties succeeded in wooing voters or capturing a sizeable portion of votes. In effect, they have been unable to dent the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) plans in Bihar.
Bihar has the lowest percentage of people living in urban areas, which has a considerable effect on the voting pattern. In these MLC elections, too, majority of the voters, 85 per cent, were from rural areas in Bihar.
Out of all the 24 winners, only one Muslim candidate won and the comrades (Left parties combined) were practically wiped out of the battle.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan somehow managed to get one seat. Two of the party’s tainted candidates, Hulas Pandey (brother of mafia don Sunil Pandey) and Dr Ranjeet Don (involved in education and admission scam) lost.
Rashtriya Lok Samata Party got no seats, even as party president Upendra Kushwaha proclaimed himself as the chief ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance a few days ago.
More than 45 per cent of the seats were split equally between the Yadavs and Baniyas, while 15 per cent went to women candidates. The rest went to the upper class — most of them were rich people who are tycoons in their respective areas and only one third of them were serious party workers.
The future of Janta Parivar in Bihar
After the announcement of results of MLC elections in Bihar, the big question being asked in the political corridors is about the future of the RJD-JD(U) coalition. Some of the factors stated below will chart the future course of the alliance.
Ritlal Yadav: The survivor or the warrior?
Ritlal’s victory as an independent candidate from the prestigious Patna seat in Bihar MLC elections begs the questions as to whether the Janta Parivar is still a parivar.
The way Ritlal chopped the wings of his rivals Valimiki Singh (JDU) and Bhola Rai (BJP) sitting in jail, makes it clear that RJD chief Lalu Yadav knows how to manage his votes.
Ritlal, who is in jail on charges of murder and kidnappings, had turned rebel in the last Lok Sabha elections when Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti was contesting elections. Talks are rife that Lalu back then had visited Ritlal’s father for support in the Lok Sabha election for “future” political plans. It is now being said that Lalu channelled the “internal” Yadav support for Ritlal in the MLC elections so that he helps Lalu in the upcoming Assembly polls.
Sources also claim that Ritlal had assured Misa’s victory if she contests from Digha or any other adjoining Assembly seat near Patna.
Ritlal’s victory is being analysed in various ways across the state. There are signs that his victory could weaken the cordial relationship between JD(U) and RJD.
There are also doubts within the JD(U) circle that if Lalu could not divert the Yadav votes (intentionally or unintentionally) towards the JD(U), then that would work in favour of BJP.
Also, BJP candidate Bhola Rai losing the election gives the impression that Shatrughan Sinha’s absence and few other internal reasons are working against BJP, especially in and around Patna.
There is also a third angle to this story. Valmiki Singh of JD(U), who lost to Ritlal, is said to be a close aide of jailed mafia don Anant Singh: his absence from the scene makes it clear that Nitish Kumar will lose out on Anant Singh’s muscle support that could cost JD(U) more seats.
Lalu’s magic waning?
The Yadavs voted for JD(U) and gifted them the seats of Bhagalpur, Newada and Nalanda. Political observers say the number of Yadav candidates fielded in this election was less and that resulted in losses in the Mithila region.
JDU candidate Salim Parwez losing from Chapra, despite Lalu campaigning for him, again points to the fact that he was unable to garner the Yadav votes. So, is Lalu’s magic waning or did he again create “internal” conditions and gave signals to his support base to not vote for Parwez?
Pappu: The spoiler of the frontier
After the results were announced, Rajesh Ranjan, aka Pappu Yadav, stated in his Facebook page that he was a big reason for the loss of the Parivar in the Kosi region, also known as the frontier region since it shares borders with West Bengal. He claimed that BJP was not able to open its account in the past Lok Sabha elections because of him.
Though his comments may just be his self-importance speaking, he did win all the seats in the Lok Sabha from East Bihar, hence stopping BJP’s entry. Since he did not have a presence in the MLC elections, the BJP seems to have benefited this time.
If Lalu is losing power, how powerful is Nitish alone?
It is still very early to say, but Lalu’s main rival, BJP, still considers Nitish the biggest opposition leader so far. Some others also think that Nitish alone is more powerful than Lalu.
Muslim votes are getting close to Nitish and the Congress. If Nitish leaves Lalu and fights with the support of the Congress, he might get an additional support of 30-35 per cent upper caste voters, who are fast steering towards the BJP.
Breaking away from Lalu can also help him win the fairly influential anti-Lalu voter base – that is, Other Backward Class and Most Backward Class who fear Lalu’s regime .
The great loss of Dalits owing to the Manjhi factor has paved way for the BJP. Most of the Dalits are going with Manjhi and the rest may settle with Paswan.
So in that sense, the Manjhi factor has worked against Nitish and the parivar will also face the consequences in the upcoming elections. Manjhi failed only in Gaya and Nalanda, but the rest of the state seems to have acknowledged him as the new Dalit Czar.
The Left forces in total fielded 16 candidates in 24 seats and none of them could manage a seat. That leaves them with no option other than forming a tie-up with any of the anti-NDA forces.
The loss of the grass-roots cadres
BJP has a good cadre base at the grass roots in villages owing to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But the parivar, JD(U) and RJD, do not have dedicated cadres at the village levels. This also led to the big loss for the alliance in MLC elections. If things don’t change in the upcoming Assembly elections, the parivar may have to face bitter results. By all accounts, it may be a closely contested election.
This article has been republished from Newslaundry.com.