The September-October assembly poll in Bihar will see a fierce battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to grab the support of the politically-influential Yadavs.
The OBC community, which accounts for nearly 12% of Bihar’s population, has identified itself with former chief minister Lalu Prasad for years, but the BJP sees an opportunity in their visible discomfort with the RJD’s decision to accept Nitish Kumar as the CM candidate of an alliance between RJD, JD(U) and Congress.
Coming from the rival Kurmi community, Nitish is often blamed for the Yadavs’ diminishing clout in Bihar during his 10 years in power.
“We may field the highest number of Yadav candidates in our history. It would be early to suggest a figure, but party leaders are discussing the possibility of fielding 40-45 candidates from this backward community,” a BJP leader said.
The BJP is likely to field candidates in 165-180 seats out of the total 243, leaving the rest for the existing allies, the LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan, RLSP of Upendra Kushwaha and some other prospective partners.
Of the 102 candidates that the BJP fielded in the 2010 assembly elections when it had an alliance with the JD(U), only six belonged to the Yadav community.
“The dynamics of this election is different, so the strategy has to be different. We will send out the message loud and clear to the Yadavs that their vote to our rivals will strengthen Nitish. Even a 25-30% split in the Yadav vote bank will tilt the balance in our favour,” a Union minister from Bihar said.
The BJP is reconciled to a total consolidation of Muslims that accounts to over 16% of the state population behind the Nitish Kumar-led alliance.
The objective behind weaning away Yadavs, or at least a significant chunk of it, is to avoid the repeat of the OBC community’s political alliance with Muslims that helped Lalu remain in power for 15 years.