Caste is a supreme consideration in Bihar politics. So any alliance will factor this in as is the case with the JD(U) and the RJD. The JD(U)’s main vote base comprises the Yadavs, Kurmis, Dalits and Muslims — a mixture of the upper backwards, backwards and extremely backward castes along with the minorities.
The RJD’s vote-bank is largely the Muslims and Yadavs and the BJP has been chipping away at the Yadav base in recent times. The Congress, which has now entered as the alliance partner to these two parties does not have much traction in Bihar, but seems to be the glue holding these fractious entities together.
The JD(U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has seen some of his Mahadalit constituency switch allegiance to his controversial predecessor Jitan Ram Manjhi, who from relative obscurity has become a bit of a worry for the alliance.
There is a lot of friction in the alliance with RJD strongman Lalu Prasad having earlier expressed unhappiness with the projection of Mr Kumar as chief minister. However, he seems to have put aside his objections for now and Mr Kumar is the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance.
The Bihar CM had built up a reputation for good governance but that does not seem to have helped him electorally in the last Lok Sabha election. This clearly gives the BJP hope as also the fact that the alliance which will oppose it is a fragile one. The BJP did well in the Lok Sabha polls, and is likely to go into the elections on the plank of good governance and Narendra Modi’s image.
The party hopes that it can consolidate its upper caste base and pick up the votes that will break away from the others. The Bihar election will be a major test for the fledgling Janata parivar.
While the alliance between the RJD, the JD(U) and the Congress seems to have the blessings of the patriarch of the parivar, Mulayam Singh Yadav, he seems miffed by Mr Kumar talking to the Congress on his own volition.
Given the egos involved, it is still too early to say whether this alliance will hold. If it does, the BJP will have its task cut out for it. As of now, it has two allies, the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and the LJP, neither of which are game changers at the moment. The interesting sideshow in this political game is the issue of fruits growing in the chief minister’s residence, which seem to have found several claimants, prominent among them being the big players in the upcoming elections.