As parties bicker, BJP looks best prepared to face Bihar polls

  • Ashok Kumar Mishra, Hindustan Times, Patna
  • Updated: Jun 09, 2015 10:47 IST

On a day when the chief election commissioner (CEC) indicated that assembly elections in Bihar are likely be held sometime in September-October, few leading political parties, barring the BJP, appeared adequately prepared to face the electorate.

The CEC termed the poll in Bihar as the "mother of all elections", indicating its free and fair conduct was as critical to the country's democratic process as to the election commission which has to ensure that it goes off smoothly.

The concerns draw upon the high stakes involved in this poll for both the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA and the hitherto "fractured Janata Parivar", with Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Nitish Kumar's ruling Janata Dal (United) failing to reach any consensus whatsoever on sharing seats.

Now that the much-hyped merger of the Janata offshoots has been deferred in the wake of "technical issues" flagged by Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav and Lalu, their bickering over seat-sharing in the assembly poll has even raised doubts about an alliance between the two.

Their tussle over seat-sharing started with RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh staking claim to 145 seats out of 243 Bihar assembly seats for his party, a demand which was rejected with disdain by chief minister Kumar.

Singh said the 2010 assembly poll results, in which the JD(U) had won 115 seats in alliance with the BJP (91), could not be the basis of sharing of seats for the forthcoming polls because its exit from the NDA in June 2013 had left it considerably weak.

The tussle may harm the RJD and JD(U), as both require each other's support to take on the BJP-led NDA.

The NDA, which won 31 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in the May 2014 poll, has its task cut out in taking on a possible 'secular grand alliance' in which the Congress and left parties have joined forces with the RJD-JD(U) combine, provided they can clinch a deal on seat sharing.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to lead the NDA campaign, as he successfully did in the 2014 general elections, the BJP looks the best-prepared party so far to face the assembly polls.

It will formally launch its campaign for the forthcoming assembly elections on May 25 and hold meetings in all the 8,463 panchayats and 2,900 urban wards as well as other places by October 15.

"BJP and RSS volunteers will fan out across the state and visit every household to educate the people about the achievements of the Narendra Modi government, which completes one year in office on May 26, and the failure of the JD(U) regime," said a top BJP leader.

From MPs to grassroots party workers, every leader will meet people including the 80 lakh new members who have recently accepted the primary membership of the party. The lawmakers will interact with voters in 4 to 5 panchayats every day.

The BJP has also dismissed the suggestion that it faces a threat from the Janata Parivar in the assembly polls.

"The BJP is fully geared up to face the polls and achieve the 185+ target. In fact, we have been demanding early polls due to political instability in Bihar. We are not at all bothered about merger or alliance between RJD and JD(U)," said BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.

The BJP, however, needs to carefully hammer out the seat-sharing exercise with its allies - the LJP led by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and RLSP led by another central minister Upendra Kushwaha.

"A discord over seat-sharing among the NDA allies may prove advantageous to the Janata Parivar," said the senior BJP leader.

Reasons and compulsions may vary from party to party, but the Congress and left parties are in the same situation as the Janata Parivar.

With a dismal electoral track record, the Congress – it won just two Lok Sabha seats in Bihar last year and has just 5 MLAs in the Bihar assembly – cannot afford to rush to the electoral arena alone.

"The party is carefully watching the developments in the RJD and JD(U). If they fail to reach a consensus on seat-sharing, we may even think of joining hands with the JD(U) led by Nitish Kumar," said a senior Congress leader.

The left parties have formed a loose alliance among themselves for the July legislative council polls for 25 seats to be drawn from local bodies. But the continuance of this alliance for the assembly polls is uncertain.

Seats tally in 2010 polls
Total seats: 243
JD (U): 115
RJD: 22
CPI: 01
BJP: 91
Congress: 04
LJP: 03 (later joined JD-U)
JMM: 01 (later joined JD-U)
Independents: 06

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