Narendra Modi’s BJP and Lalu Prasad’s RJD rate themselves ahead of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) in all of Bihar but for Nalanda — the Bihar CM’s pocket borough.
That the formidable foes of Nitish have both ceded the seat to their respective allies — Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and the Congress — tells on their winning prospects here.
Nalanda has never disappointed Nitish.
A senior JD(U) leader recalled that since the 1996 LS polls, the Nalanda seat has sent to the LS, men hand-picked by Nitish. “That’s how George Fernandes, a rank outsider, won from Nalanda thrice — in 1996, 1998 and 1999 — followed by Nitish’s own victory in 2004,” he said.
“Nalanda is Nitish Kumar’s native district and is dominated by his co-caste people, the Kurmis. The outcome of past several elections shows his sway on voters of Nalanda is unrivalled,” he added.
Nitish, on his part, has never given Nalanda a reason to grumble either. The CM has brought the district to the centrestage of development,” said Sadhu Saran, a former head of Akauna panchayat in Nalanda.
This time, too, the seat was reportedly offered to JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav to provide him a ‘safe passage’, which he eventually declined.
So, is the decision of the BJP and RJD to leave Nalanda to their allies a tacit acknowledgement of their limitations?
“Yes,” said Saran. “Even when Nitish’s fledgling Samata Party was routed in the 1995 assembly polls, winning just seven out of the 315 seats it contested, five out of the seven were in Nalanda.”
Later in 2010, six of its assembly constituencies sent JD(U) nominees to the assembly and the seventh, Rajgir (reserved), voted in the BJP, then a JD(U) ally.
But the presence of Satyanand Sharma, an outsider, on the ticket of BJP’s alliance partner LJP, has thrown up a question.
“Is this fight genuine? Or, is it being orchestrated with an eye on post-poll realignment of forces,” said a BJP worker from Nalanda.