With the Janata Parivar coming together to put up a united face against BJP in the Bihar elections, the latter, which has been banking heavily on the disarray in the Opposition side, is expected to review its poll strategy.
A united Opposition — JD(U)-RJD-Congress — would be “very bad” news for the BJP in Bihar, where caste equations overshadow other factors like development and good governance, say sources. “This is a critical election, we cannot afford to lose it. But the united opposition will make it tougher for us,” said a senior BJP leader.
With the JD(U)-RJD combine having a psychological upper hand in the elections, the BJP’s present allies — Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party — will be more demanding.
While RLSP has demanded 40-50 seats, Paswan’s party is keen to contest at least 80 seats. The BJP, which has set a mission of 182 seats, wants to contest nearly 200 seats. Although the party has been in a bind over taking the help of Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), the new political scenario may compel the party to forge an alliance with Manjhi to tap Mahadalit votes.
The coming together of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar has eclipsed BJP’s prospects in Kosi belt and constituencies where Muslim votes are a deciding factor. According to political observers, Bihar’s nearly 17 per cent Muslims determine the winner in at least 60 assembly constituencies.
The BJP has no accepted face to lead the party in the politically crucial state. Although former deputy CM Sushil Modi is expected to be the unofficial candidate for the top post, the national leadership may find it more difficult to deal with factionalism. The Narendra Modi factor that helped the BJP win 31 seats in Bihar in the Lok Sabha elections would have faded further by the time the state goes to polls in September or October, say political observers.
However, the BJP put up a brave face on Monday. Terming the alliance between once-arch rivals Nitish and Lalu a contradiction, BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said: “Nitish Kumar had been vocal on clean image and clean politics, but he has joined hands with Lalu Prasad, a symbol of corruption. This shows that he is scared. In the last two years, things have gone bad. Law and order issues and corruption are on the rise.”
The people of Bihar have tasted the “politics of good governance and development” due to BJP’s cooperation in Bihar and Modi at the Centre, Sharma said. They will vote for “development, good governance and progress,” he said, adding, “People have drifted away from caste politics. Our campaign will be positive, it will focus on good governance.”