In Bihar, there are 60 registered and recognised political parties at present. Twelve more have joined the fray, including Hindustani Awam Party-Secular and Janadhikar Morcha Party Loktantrik. Many others are flexing their muscles, thanks to identity politics, which has overtaken Bihar, riding on aspirations borne out of development in the last one decade.
As the battle lines are clearly drawn in Bihar between two main alliances - one led by the BJP and the other by the JD(U) - smaller parties too look to extract their pound. However, with anti-Nitish forces drifting towards NDA, the BJP seems happy with the consolidation, though it now faces a problem of plenty, as it approaches the seat sharing deadline.
“This shows the emerging trend. The wind of change is blowing and political leaders can sniff who is holding the aces this time. But ultimately, only 243 candidates can fight an election and with two clear sides available, just 486 candidates would matter,” said a legislator.
“Yes, the situation makes it a bit challenging, even though politics is the art of adjustment. We are used to this kind of a situation,” said BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
For the grand secular alliance, however, the challenge is to get more than its caste arithmetic right even as the two main parties try to fight 100 seats each, with 43 seats given to Congress and the NCP.
JD( U) spokesman Neraj Kumar claimed, the BJP was playing proxy politics, indirectly aligning with leaders and parties who lost their credibility or have criminal antecedents. “BJP wants to keep its image clean and yet prop anti-social elements through alliance partners to reap electoral advantage. This is the kind of insecurity within a national party,” he added.
The fact is that NDA is getting more broad-based in Bihar this time than ever before. Aware of the dominant caste arithmetic of RJD and JD(U), together with the Congress, the BJP has spread its wings to embrace new partners with potential to upset the Janata Parivar calculations.
After successful tie-ups with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP during Lok Sabha elections, the NDA now has former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) - Secular and if all goes according to plan, Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) -Loktantrik could be the new entrant loosely attached to it.
But that is not the only way NDA has reached out to new friends. The anti-Nitish leaders have also started rallying round it directly or indirectly in their quest to dislodge the chief minister. This includes the 18 JD(U) rebels, led by Gyanendra Singh ‘Gyanu’.
Former Rajya Sabha MP Shabir Ali has been second time lucky in joining the BJP, while two other former Rajya Sabha MPs - Ranjan Yadav and Shivanand Tewari - who shifted their loyalty from Lalu Prasad’s RJD to JD(U) to enjoy one more MP-term each, have been openly critical of Nitish style of functioning.
There are a few others who are joining the NDA through alliance partners. One of them is former MP Lovely Anand, wife of incarcerated Anand Mohan, who joined Manjhi’s party along with her son Chetan Anand.
Besides, there are other players, like Nagmani, who was quite profuse in his praise of Narendra Modi last year, after quitting NCP in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. Coming from the influential Kushwaha caste, he has now formed Samras Samaj Party.
Nagmani was a minister in the NDA-1 government in Bihar, but later fell out with Nitish over not getting the chance to contest Lok Sabha elections. Now, he is reportedly angry over inclusion of Dangi caste, a sub-caste of Kushwaha, in the EBC category.
“Our aim is to end the Nitish raj,” is how the face of JD(U)’s ousted rebel Gyanendra Singh ‘Gyanu’ put it. Pappu Yadav has been spewing venom on both JD(U) and RJD, while Manjhi has a one-point agenda of dislodging Nitish Kumar.
Sadhu Yadav, brother-in-law of Lalu Prasad, has also formed a new party now and is reportedly eying the NDA, though, according to sources, he may have to take a different route to be on NDA side.