Assembly elections are going to be held in the eastern state of Bihar with 243 assembly seats from the last week of October. The first phase will be held on October 28, and the second and the last phase on Nov 3 and 7 respectively. Counting will be done on 10th November.
Nomination for 71 seats has been completed for the seats in first phase.
Traditionally, assembly polls in Bihar have been largely bipolar, but this time it seems electoral game will be a little different.Incumbent national democratic alliance (NDA) is trying hard to retain power but if sources are to be believed there is an internal fight between the saffron party and its partner Janta Dal United (JDU). Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), another ally of NDA has catagorically said that it will be giving tickets on only those seats where JDU will be fighting. LJP's rebellion against JDU chief and chief minister Nitish Kumar is seen as ploy of BJP to throw Nitish out of the chair if his seats are less than that of BJP.
On the other hand Rashrtiya Janta Dal (RJD) and the Congress-led Mahagathbandhan or grand alliance had to lose its three allies – Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), Hindustani Awaam Morcha (Secular) and Vikashsheel Insan Party (VIP). All the three parties belong to specific communities who have separate vote banks.
Bihar is a highly polarized state on the lines of caste and all the three parties mentioned above had their inception on caste lines. Two of them, Hindustani Awaam Morcha (secular) and VIP, have joined the ruling NDA.
RLSP represents Koiri community whichhas 8% population in Bihar. On the other hand, there isa considerable vote strength of Nishad (Fisherman community) community in around 50 seats. VIP represents Nishad.
Hindustani Awaam Morcha (Secular) party was founded by former Chief Minister of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi. He was earlier with JDU but after he was ousted from the chief minister's post by Nitish Kumar, he parted with JDU and floated the new party.
Jitan Ram Manjhi belongs to Musahar community. Musahars have the largest population of the three castes in the Dalit community in Bihar. There are 2.5 to 3 percent Musahars in the whole of Bihar.
All three parties are still with different alliances. Jitan Ram Manjhi's party Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Bollywood set decorator-turned-politician Mukesh Sahni's Developing Insan Party have joined the NDA. At the same time, Upendra Kushwaha's party RLSP has formed an alliance with All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, the Hyderabad-based political party in Seemanchal, a Muslim dominated area of Bihar.
This alliance also includes Samajwadi Janata Dal Democratic, Bahujan Samaj Party, Suhaldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and Democratic Socialist Party and the alliance has been named Grand Democratic Secular Front. The front has declared Upendra Kushwaha as its CM candidate.
Asaduddin Owaisi's party AIMIM hadmarked its entry in the Hindi state by winning an assembly seat of Kishanganj district in Bihar's Seemanchal in October last year. Four districts of Bihar include Kishanganj, Purnia, Araria and Katihar in Seemanchal. Of these, the Muslim population in Kishanganj is around 65 percent, while in other districts it is between 40 and50 percent. In Seemanchal, the popularity of AIMIM has also increased in recent times, so the Grand Alliance may face difficulties as Muslims have been traditionally backing RJD and Congress.
Apart from RJD and Congress, the left parties are also there in the grand alliance.Tejashwi Yadav, ex-deputy Chief Minister of Bihar and son of former Chief minister Laluprasad Yadav, has been declared as the chief ministerial candidate on behalf of the Grand Alliance.
On the other hand, Jan Adhikar Party, a party formed by Pappu Yadav, former MP and once known in Bihar politics,as Bahubali (a famous term in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for those who has money and muscle power) has aligned with Prakash Ambedkar. Pappu Yadav is often seen helping people be it food in Bihar, water logging or Covid-19 crisis. However it is difficult to say whether thiscan be converted into votes, .
Apart from all this, in March this year, Pushpam Priya Chaudhary, daughter of JDU leader, who came in the headlines by advertising herself to be declared CM candidate on the front page of local newspapers, is also in the fray. She has formed a new party called Plurals and has announced herself ascontesting from two seats, Bankipur in Bihar capital Patna and her home assembly Bisfi. Her party will field candidates for all 243 seats. She is one who has done her higher studies in London.
In total, five coalitions and one party are separately in the fray in Bihar assembly polls this time. In such a situation, there is a lot of apprehension that votes will be divided. Experts believe that there is a lot of resentment against the incumbent government who have run Bihar for 15 years. There is a strong anti-incumbency factor against them. That said, howeverthere is not that much anger against the BJP.
If the votes split among other alliances, then it is likely to cause more damage to the Grand Alliance. The voters who had been voting for Nitish Kumar for 15 years, were giving him votes because they had no other choice apart from ruling parties and grand alliance but this time there are other fronts also.
If there were only two coalitions - Grand Alliance and NDA - in the fray, the anti-incumbency vote would have gone in favor of the grand alliance, but now the people have other options too.
Apart from this, a lot of independent candidates will also be in the fray, who may not win, but they will definitely eat some votes. In such a situation, it may also happen that some alliances willwin a few seats. If the other alliances get some seats and the two major alliances (NDA and grand alliance) do not get a majority, then the smaller alliances will be in the role of kingmaker. These small coalitions will decide whose government is formed.
(The writer is a Patna-based freelance journalist. He tweets on @Umesh_krRay)