Cong may take backseat in Bihar talks to replicate Jharkhand success
The Congress had played second fiddle to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand and is content to be a junior partner to one of its oldest and trusted allies, RJD, in Bihar.Updated: Jan 02, 2020 13:35 IST
Buoyed by the outcome of assembly elections in neighbouring Jharkhand, the Congress is set to replicate the poll strategy in Bihar by ensuring that the alliance and the political chemistry are strong on the ground.
The Congress had played second fiddle to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in Jharkhand and is content to be a junior partner to one of its oldest and trusted allies – the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) – in Bihar, with Tejashwi Yadav as the chief ministerial candidate of the grand alliance.
Along with the Congress and the RJD, the other parties expected to be in the opposition grouping are the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwaha and former chief minister Jitin Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM).
The tie-up between these parties existed in last year’s Lok Sabha elections as well. The Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninst) were also part of the rainbow coalition. There is also no clarity yet if the other Left parties will join them.
However, discussions on seat-sharing are yet to begin and will start only in April-May as the assembly elections in Bihar are scheduled to be held in October-November this year.
“We will start talks on seats with our allies in April-May. But we have started or ground work in all the 243 assembly constituencies,” Congress’ Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil said.
In Jharkhand, the Congress had issued clear directives to its district leaders to campaign jointly with other alliance partners even if its candidates were not contesting on those seats in a bid to send a message of unity. One of the reasons identified for the poor show in 2019 Lok Sabha elections was lack of coordination among the allies on the ground.
“The same formula will be repeated in Bihar. Our ground work will obviously help our alliance partners as well,” added Gohil.
In the last assembly elections in 2015, the Congress, riding piggyback on the grand alliance (which also included the Janata Dal (United), recorded its best-ever performance in 25 years, winning 27 of 41 assembly seats it had contested.
The Congress hopes to gain substantially in the upcoming elections.
“A massive anti-incumbency against the Nitish Kumar-led government coupled with rampant corruption in the state are going to propel the grand alliance to power,” said senior Bihar Congress leader Kishore Kumar Jha. “There is also confusion among the JD(U) and the BJP and the leg pulling has already started,” he added. Both BJP and JD(U) have recently had sharp exchanges on seat-sharing, though the alliance is understood to be firmly intact, with BJP president Amit Shah saying that it will be led by Nitish Kumar as the CM face. JD(U) is also expected to join the union cabinet.
But the grand alliance will be missing RJD supremo Lalu Prasad who was a star campaigner in the 2015 elections.
The opposition parties may appear strong in terms of caste calculations buy the key to their success is their capacity to transfer votes to each other. While the RJD has considerable influence over Yadavs and Muslims, the RLSP boasts of the support base of Koeris who are from the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category. Similarly, the HAM has a sway over Musahars (Scheduled Caste) while the VIP of Mukesh Sahni alias ‘Son of Mallah’ is strong among the Nishad (fisherfolk and boatmen) community (OBC). In the Lok Sabha elections, these caste groups did not vote as blocs for the alliance, eventually paving the way for a sweep by BJP and JD(U), along with their third ally, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party.
The Congress that claims to represent all sections of the society has been reduced to political margins of the state since 1990s. The Mandal politics saw the decline of the Congress and the rise of regional leaders such as Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in the state’s political landscape.
In the past three decades, the Congress worked different combinations of caste and religion as part its organisational restructuring to not only check the erosion of its support base but also see its resurgence. But all such attempts failed to help the grand old party to regain its lost glory.