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Home / Analysis / The shifting nature of political alliances in the Bihar elections | Analysis

The shifting nature of political alliances in the Bihar elections | Analysis

Will people of Bihar have the government of the collation which they will be voting for, or will alliances, which aren’t even visible at the moment, rule the roost?

analysis Updated: Oct 19, 2020, 19:26 IST
Sanjay Kumar and Chandrachur Singh
Sanjay Kumar and Chandrachur Singh
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) under Chirag Paswan remains in the NDA at the Centr,e but outside it in the state. He has made it clear that his only interest is defeating the JD(U).
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) under Chirag Paswan remains in the NDA at the Centr,e but outside it in the state. He has made it clear that his only interest is defeating the JD(U). (PTI)

Political parties are apprehensive of forging pre- or post-electoral alliances even though the mathematics of winning elections, particularly in fragmented socio-political set-ups, compels them to do so. Coalitions have become a common phenomenon in segmented and plural democratic societies. However, they require a minimum ideological or policy overlap to work. The latest trends in forging coalitions, particularly at state-levels, however, defy this as both national and local parties, in their bid to capture power, have created alliances trumping all such considerations.

Regional parties, however, being largely family-based and patriarchal, are not ideologically bent, and they are not averse to entering into any tactical arrangement with a party which could help their ride to power. What is new is that national parties are now following suit. It is this flexibility in manoeuvring alliances that seems to be working in Bihar.

Shifting alliances are not unique to Bihar alone. Political developments in Goa, Manipur, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and other states have proved this. In 2015, the people of Bihar voted for the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Janata Dal (United) mahagathbandan (grand alliance), but in two years, a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government was in power with the same chief minister (CM). The same thing took place in Maharashtra where political alignments changed after the polls.

However, there are pointers for the Bihar elections from previous experiences, especially since shifting alliances, loyalties and subversive moves are unpredictably intense this time.At root of such phenomena are localised caste loyalties which tend to manifest in fragmentation of the polity. The sheer intensity of this social and political churn tends to trump other developmental and ideological issues, allowing parties to forge alliances in any manner they chose to. Capturing political power becomes an end in itself.

The assembly elections in Bihar present a strange picture. The Janata Dal(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have formed an alliance, sharing 122 and 121 seats respectively. The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) under Chirag Paswan remains in the NDA at the Centr,e but outside it in the state. He has made it clear that his only interest is defeating the JD(U). Similarly, the JD(U) has formed a subsidiary alliance with the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) while the BJP has formed an alliance with the Mukesh Sahani-led Vikassheel Insaan Party.

The BJP has played the second fiddle to Nitish Kumar for a very long time. It may have been tempted to put forward a chief ministerial candidate. However, Kumar is adept in making combative and pre-emptive moves. There are possibilities of underhand deals between several parties and candidates at the local level as the elections come closer.

What is happening in Bihar in these elections is that, on the face of it, parties are adhering to the theoretical prerequisites of a pre-electoral coalition in coordinating their electoral strategies, even declaring a CM candidate. Underneath this, however, there is a deep trust deficit which might create a precarious situation where the incoming government might not be representing the popular mandate even in plural terms.

Thus, the real question to raise is this: Will people of Bihar have the government of the collation which they will be voting for, or will alliances, which aren’t even visible at the moment, rule the roost?

The death of the LJP patriarch Ram Vilas Paswan will only add to the uncertainties aiding shifting and stifling modes of electioneering. The pictures of a young Suraj Bhan Singh flying in a chartered airplane in the aftermath of the election results in February 2005, to cobble up a majority, is still fresh in Bihar’s political memory. Don’t rule out a repeat.

Sanjay Kumar is a professor at the Centre of Studies in Developing Societies (CSDS) and Chandrachur Singh teaches political science at Hindu College, University of Delhi
The views expressed are personal

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