With the Election Commission announcing the Bihar poll dates, the NDA allies ruling the state — the Janata Dal(United) and Bharatiya Janata Party — will be seeking a referendum from the electorate on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's claims of good governance and pursuing an agenda of development and inclusive growth. See cartoon
The alliance is pushing the perception that there has been a positive change in the state's image, both inside and outside Bihar, under Nitish Kumar's leadership after the "lawless" Lalu years.
"This (turning the law-and-order situation around) was a challenging task, to say the least. We had to demystify the myth that crime could not be kept on a tight leash in the state," said Brishen Patel, a minister in the Nitish Kumar cabinet.
"But we successfully accomplished the task within the framework of the law. The result is there for all to see."
Improved governance will be a major thrust in the NDA poll campaign.
"People have enjoyed the fruits of good governance. They no more want a caste-based identity, but are enjoying the newfound, across-castes Bihari identity," said state JD(U) president Vijay Kumar Chowdhary.
While NDA leaders claim to be on a sound footing in Bihar, there have been differences between the two allies over campaigning by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
But insiders said both parties had arrived at an understanding that Narendra Modi would not campaign in the state.
One of the concerns for Nitish Kumar is the likely erosion of the upper caste votes after desertions of leaders such as Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh belonging to the landed Bhumihar caste and Rajput leader Prabhunath Singh on the issue of bataidari (sharecroppers) bill.
The JD(U) is also confident that its support base among the Extremely Backward Castes, Muslims and Mahadalits that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has nourished through reservations at the Panchayati Raj level and jobs will pay dividends.