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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

The Paswan factor: What happens if LJP joins NDA

Ashok Mishra , Hindustan Times  ashokmishra@hindustantimes.com Patna, February 25, 2014
First Published: 23:47 IST(25/2/2014) | Last Updated: 12:34 IST(26/2/2014)

With the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) all set to join the NDA after a gap of nearly 12 years, caste and community equations in Bihar are poised to change, forcing the imminent Congress-RJD alliance and the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) to rethink their political strategies.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the NDA had the support of all castes, barring the Yadavs, Muslims and Paswans, and this was reflected in the results. The NDA bagged 32 of the 40 seats in Bihar, with the JD-U getting 20 and BJP 12.

After the JD(U) quit the NDA, it was not known whether the party would join hands with the Congress or what the fate of the Lalu Prasad-led RJD would be. Now, with the BJP joining hands with the Rashtriya Loktantrik Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwaha, a Koeri leader, and the LJP likely to join the NDA, caste equations are set to churn again.

The BJP will now have support of the upper castes, Vaishyas, Paswans and part of the Koeris, especially after the tie-up with Kushwaha. Along with this, the BJP is trying to woo the extremely backward classes (EBCs) that support the JD(U) by projecting its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s EBC identification.

Read: Bokaro recruitment case: CBI may question Paswan

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With Dalit leader Paswan on its side, the BJP is planning to target the mahadalit vote bank of the JD(U). The bulk of this community supports Kumar because he had brought 21 of 22 scheduled castes in Bihar into the mahadalit category and offered sops, leaving out only the Dusadhs — the caste Paswan belongs to.

“The JD(U) has no exclusive rights on the votes of EBCs because Narendra Modi also belongs to the Ghanchi  caste of the EBCs in Gujarat. Similarly, the mahadalits are sore over non-implementation of the schemes announced for them,” former minister Giriraj Singh said.

After the split in the NDA, the ruling JD(U) had largely banked on a tie-up with the Congress, which appeared receptive to Kumar’s demand for special category status to Bihar. However, the Congress finally left the matter in limbo and seems also set to join hands with the RJD.

Read: Rajnath denies reports of BJP-LJP alliance

Left with no option, the JD(U) is likely to forge a ‘secular alliance’ with the CPI and CPM in the hope of getting maximum support of the Muslims while its core vote bank of the Kurmis, EBCs, mahadalits and a segment of Koeris, remains intact.

The LJP’s move to join the NDA is also a setback for the Congress and RJD because if the LJP had joined them, the trio would have made a formidable alliance.

The combined strength of these parties was seen in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls in which the Congress, RJD, LJP and NCP won 29 seats. Of these the RJD won 22 seats, the LJP four and the Congress three.

Read:  Unhappy over talks with UPA, Paswan's party set to tie up with BJP

But when they decided to go it alone in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the result was disastrous as they ended up weakening each other. The RJD won only four seats, the LJP drew a blank and the Congress won two.

On the contrary, the NDA won 32 seats and though its spectacular performance was attributed to Kumar’s development agenda and social engineering, a big factor was the division of secular votes.


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