Unrelenting rebels pose a challenge to both coalitions
Some parties have taken strict action -- the BharatIya Janata Party expelled nine leaders and its ally, Janata Dal (United) 15 for ‘anti-party’ activities -- but it has failed to stem the outflow of leaders unhappy over not getting ticket for the polls.Updated: Oct 24, 2020, 00:13 IST
A common thread running through the campaigns of many mainstream political parties in the upcoming Bihar assembly polls is the spectre of rebellion that threatens to undercut official candidates in closely fought seats.
Some parties have taken strict action -- the BharatIya Janata Party expelled nine leaders and its ally, Janata Dal (United) 15 for ‘anti-party’ activities -- but it has failed to stem the outflow of leaders unhappy over not getting ticket for the polls.
Moreover, because the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic hangs over the elections and is likely to depress turnout, a few thousand votes siphoned off by a rebel candidate might make the difference between winning and losing in many seats.
The ruling JD(U) faces the biggest threat -- not by leaders deserting its fold, but by rebel BJP leaders who have switched over to the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) that decided to fight the election on its own and field candidates against the JD(U) in several seats.
In rally after rally, LJP chief Chirag Paswan attacked chief minister Nitish Kumar and in at least 20 high-profile seats, the LJP has named BJP rebels to take on the JD(U).
This includes Rajendra Singh in Dinara, Rameshwar Chaurasia in Sasaram, Ravindra Yadav in Jhajha, Usha Vidyarthi in Paliganj, Indu Devi Kashyap in Jehaanabad, Shweta Singh in Sandesh, Anil Kumar in Bikram and Mrinal Shekhar in Amarpur.
Some leaders from the JD(U) have also deserted the party after not getting tickets. Prominent in this group is former Congress president Ram Jatan Sinha, who joined the JD-U last year but quit in October, and vowed to work against the party. Sinha has not yet joined any other party.
“In north Bihar, there are a number of rebel candidates threatening to affect the prospects of the NDA. All eyes are now on the PM’s rallies to send a clear message across,” said a senior BJP leader.from Darbhanga on condition of anonymity.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) hopes to benefit form the internecine fight between the LJP and the JD(U) but it was beset by rebellion two months before the polls. At least 12 sitting MLAs left the party. Some joined the JD(U) while others tried their luck with the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party or smaller parties.
“Ticket is what every candidate aspires for and once denied, they look for options. This time, with the prospect of triangular or multi-cornered contests increasing due to emergence of new opportunities, they were not hesitant to go against the party. In case of a hung House, they know that each seat will matter if they manage to pull through. That is what will make the battle more intense in a possibly low turnout election,” said political analyst Ajay Jha.