LJP chief Chirag Paswan’s main target in the Bihar Assembly election was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).(Parwaz Khan/HT PHOTO)
LJP chief Chirag Paswan’s main target in the Bihar Assembly election was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United).(Parwaz Khan/HT PHOTO)

Bihar assembly polls: LJP replays spoilsport’s role but with different target

The likely end of the Nitish Kumar regime as projected by most exit polls will give the LJP the satisfaction of having accomplished its mission but at a staggering cost in a state where it has always struggled to be a major player.
By Arun Kumar | Hindustan Times, Patna
UPDATED ON NOV 08, 2020 02:27 PM IST

If the exit polls on the Bihar assembly election are any indicators, the Lok Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) may end up repeating its 2005 role of a spoilsport.

The likely end of the Nitish Kumar regime as projected by most exit polls will give the LJP the satisfaction of having accomplished its mission but at a staggering cost in a state where it has always struggled to be a major player.

The LJP lost in the 2005 assembly election, but it helped in decimating its main target at that time – the RJD – to pave the way for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Nitish Kumar.

Fifteen years later, the LJP has played a similar role with a different target – the JD-U. Chirag Paswan’s strategy of praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hitting out at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may not win the LJP many seats, but its ability to erode votes seems to have hit its prime target – JD-U, as the exit polls suggest.

In the 2005 October elections the LJP under the late Ram Vilas Paswan had contested 204 of the 243 seats in the Bihar assembly but could win just 10. Yet, it was content for having played its part in bringing down the RJD regime.

“We have played our part in ending the Lalu Raj. We have accomplished our mission,” Ram Vilas Paswan had then said on winning just 10 seats.

Click here for full coverage of Bihar Assembly Election 2020.

As a separate entity, the LJP’s rigorous campaigning against the Lalu-Rabri regime directly helped the NDA on several seats.

The 2005 statistics showed that there were 12 seats on which the LJP finished second and 84 on which it finished third. What was significant was the percentage of votes it cornered and which ultimately made the difference between the NDA and the UPA, contrary to the popular perception.

On as many as 85 seats, the LJP candidates got more than 10% of the votes polled, which in itself proved vital on several seats. There were 33 seats where the LJP candidates polled more than 20% votes, excluding the winning seats. Most of these were the seats where the LJP finished runners up, relegating the RJD or the Congress to the third spot.

Even on seats where the LJP polled less than 10 per cent votes, the impact was discernible, as the number of votes the party got – ranging between 2,000 and 10,000 - was more than the margin of defeat for the UPA candidate.

In 2005, the LJP’s campaign led to the RJD losing as many as 57 seats while the Congress and the NCP lost 13 seats and two seats. But this time, the same vote split may have worked in the Grand Alliance’s favour to turn the tables on the NDA and without any discernible benefit to the LJP.

On November 10, it will be clear how the LJP impacted the 2020 Bihar assembly election. The LJP’s strategy to go solo and particularly target the JD-U was seen as a double-edged sword that could hurt it more than what it may have bargained for as it punched much above its weight.

Political observers say it did not help the LJP’s cause that many of its candidates this time were former leaders of the BJP and the JD-U who were denied tickets by their parties.

“If the LJP damaged the JD-U but could not win the seat, the beneficiary was always likely to be GA. If that happened, the GA’s tally could go up significantly. If exit polls are any indicator, the strategy seems to have badly backfired and perhaps the LJP overestimated itself depending on borrowed players. The people also read the game plan and they worked as a catalyst for the spirited campaign of Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav, which remained focused on unemployment and migration, for a decisive choice,” said former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies.

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