Here’s why Bihar elections beckon UP leaders and parties
Political parties from Uttar Pradesh have been unsuccessful in making inroads into Bihar politics.Updated: Oct 23, 2020, 18:02 IST
Ahead of the 2015 Bihar assembly polls, the Yadav chieftains -- Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav -- had assembled together a rickety grand alliance, which collapsed much before the elections were held.
Its political tremors were felt in India’s northern belt.
The two neighbouring states -- Bihar and Uttar Pradesh -- account for 120 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats and their alliance could have provided a heavy-duty umbrella to their trusted constituencies of Muslims and Backwards, largely Yadavs, who were growing apprehensive of BJP’s growing strength under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The third regional satrap, BSP chief Mayawati, had not joined the grand alliance but she had kept her options open. She was desperate to expand Bahujan Samaj Party’s base outside Uttar Pradesh.
Ironically, leaders from UP-Bihar have been testing each other’s territories, either as a spoiler or as an ally, while Bihar consistently rejected the political adventures of Mulayam and Mayawati despite a sizeable Yadav and Dalit population in the state, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan also failed to make any inroads in UP.
Even the Bharatiya Janata Party, despite an active local leadership and organisation, deployed leaders from UP, especially in the eastern part of the state -- famous for ‘roti-beti ka rishta.’ It’s common for Bihar families to find grooms in UP and vice versa or set up lucrative businesses here.
As many as 48 assembly constituencies in seven districts of Bihar share boundaries with eastern districts of UP – namely West Champaran, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Bhojpur, Buxar and Kaimur.
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Union defence minister Rajnath Singh are the star campaigners -- both are from east UP. Yogi has already launched an intensive campaign, drawing large crowds. He is expected to address 35 rallies.
In the past also the BJP had sent Kalraj Misra (Brahmin) and Manoj Sinha (Bhumihar) to Bihar for campaigning, again from east UP. They are now the governors of Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir, respectively.
A BJP spokesperson recalled how in July 2019, the BJP high command had surprised many by nominating six-time MLA Phagu Chauhan from Ghosi in east UP as Bihar governor. Experts had then said that among other things, Chauhan was picked to appease the Lohia Chauhans, a backward community with sizable presence in Bihar.
Veteran leader Shivanand Tewari is watching elections with interest and says, “Large crowds are thronging Tejashwi’s public meetings. According to him, UP chief minister may not influence the voters much as Ram temple is now a reality and not a poll issue. Even Mayawati has influence in limited pockets. It’s a straight fight leaving no political space for smaller groups,” Tewari added.
Another political analyst Abhay Kumar Singh felt that the Congress should have sent some Brahmin leaders from UP to campaign in Bihar. As for Yogi and Rajnath Singh’s rallies, he said, it is just a BJP effort to present a galaxy of national leaders in the absence of strong local leadership.
Much before the elections, however, national president of Samajwadi Party Akhilesh Yadav decided not to contest the polls in Bihar. Tejashwi and Akhilesh are friends. Recently Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav and Akhilesh went on a tour of Etawah Safari.
The collapse of the grand alliance did not sour the relationship between the country’s tallest Yadav leaders and their families even after their sons have taken charge of the party amid family drama.
Akhilesh has often explained the party’s decision to stay away from Bihar polls as the party does not have any presence in the state and that they would not want to weaken anti-BJP forces.
Akhilesh announced support to RJD and its leader Tejashwi Yadav.
SP had first entered Bihar in 1995, three years after Lalu Prasad Yadav had stopped LK Advani’s Somnath to Ayodhya rath yatra right on UP-Bihar border, puncturing Mulayam’s game plan of stopping the rath yatra in UP before it reached the temple city.
Both Lalu and Mulayam were then chief ministers of their respective states.
The former was closer to late Janata Dal leader VP Singh, who somehow had animosity with Mulayam. Both were chasing the minority votes. SP won two seats in its first election in 1995 and then in 2005.
For record’s sake, in 2015 Bihar elections, the SP contested 135 seats, lost its deposits on 134 and polled barely 1.01 per cent votes.
Some experts’ argument that the voters actually vent their anger against Mulayam for abandoning the grand alliance at the crucial juncture did not hold ground as even in 2010, SP had contested 146 seats, lost deposit on all and polled barely 0.55 per cent votes.
However, Mayawati continues to chase her Bihar dream and has stitched an alliance with smaller parties for the upcoming polls.
Mayawati, too, tasted her best in 2005 by winning two seats. The vote percentage has hovered between 2 and 5 percent. While BSP is contesting 80 seats, the other allies, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party is contesting 104, AIMIM 24, Samajwadi Janata Dal 25 and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party and Janwadi Party Socialist are contesting 5 each.
Here is her record. BSP had lost deposits in 225 of the 228 seats contested in 2015, polling 2.07 percent votes. The party’s fate was no better in 2010 when it polled 3.21 percent votes, losing deposits in 236 of the 239 seats contested.
Nitish Kumar’s two political cards -- EBC (extremely backward castes) and Mahadalits -- had left no political space for Mayawati to capitalize on. The sympathy vote of a section of Dalits may go with Ram Vilas Paswan’s party.
Despite her stature, Mayawati has also lost much of her political spark. She plans to hold five rallies in a state, which has been virtually stormed by BJP leaders, chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav.
The question is not on how many seats her party would win or play a spoiler, but will she open her account? However, her larger plan is to garner sufficient votes to retain the national status of her party.