BJP leaders can hardly be hopeful about the forthcoming assembly elections in Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana. Of these three states, the party has its strongest presence in Jharkhand and has been the ruling party there since the state was formed. But they must surely be mindful of the success of the JMM-Congress-RJD-CPI alliance in Jharkhand in the Lok Sabha elections last summer. Haryana has never been a stronghold of the BJP. The party has been able to make its presence felt only when it contested elections in alliance with other political parties. Since the BJP is going it alone in Haryana this time, its prospects can only be slim.
In Bihar, with a very thin support base, the BJP would be largely dependent on its alliance partner, the JD(U). But the JD(U) was recently toying with the idea of breaking the alliance in case it could form an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party. Even in alliance with the JD(U), the BJP may find it tough to put up a formidable challenge to the RJD.
These assembly elections are being held barely nine months after the Lok Sabha elections in April-May 2004. Nothing much has changed in the political scenario in these states. First look at Jharkhand. When Jharkhand was part of Bihar, the BJP emerged as the most powerful political force in this region. During the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, it won 12 of the 14 seats from this region and polled 34 per cent votes; in the 1998 Lok Sabha, it had 12 seats, but managed to increased its vote share by 11.5 per cent. The dominance of the BJP continued during the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, and it won 11 seats and polled 45.5 per cent votes. But the party was routed during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when it could manage to win only the Kodarma Lok Sabha seat. What contributed to the defeat of the BJP was the formidable Congress-JMM-RJD-CPI alliance. This alliance together polled 41.5 per cent votes and won 13 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats. If we look at the results of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, in terms of leads in assembly segments, of the total 81 segments, the Congress led in 29, the JMM in 22, RJD in seven and the CPI in four. The BJP led only in 16, and the JD(U) in two.
In Haryana, if the results of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections are seen in terms of leads for different political parties in assembly segments, the Congress led in 71 of the 90 assembly segments while the BJP led only in five. Though the INLD could not manage to win any Lok Sabha seat, it led in 10 assembly segments. Neither the political scenario, nor the mood of the voters appears to have changed in Haryana since then.
The prospects of different political parties in Bihar during the 2005 assembly elections largely depend upon the pattern of pre-poll alliances among different political parties. Leaders of the Congress, LJP and JD(U) are fully aware that, while they have pockets of influence among different sections of voters, none of them alone could provide any challenge to the ruling RJD in the state. The findings of surveys conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) indicate that while the LJP has a strong support base among the 17.1 per cent dalits, especially among the Dushads, who constitute nearly 5 per cent of the total population, the JD(U) is extremely popular among voters belonging to two backward castes, the Kurmis and Koeris, who together constitute nearly 7 per cent of the population. The Congress still has some presence among the upper caste voters, the Muslims and the dalits.
The RJD, which has been in power in Bihar for the last 15 years, has a strong support base among Yadavs and the Muslims. The two together comprise nearly 33 per cent of the population. While an alliance of the RJD with the Congress and the LJP could actually sweep the elections in Bihar, even without an alliance the RJD seems to be the strongest political force. This alliance registered an impressive victory during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, winning 29 of the total 40 Lok Sabha seats and polled 44.3 per cent votes. The RJD won 22 of the 26 Lok Sabha seats contested and polled 30.7 per cent votes, the LJP managed to win four of the eight Lok Sabha seats which it contested and polled 8.2 per cent votes. The Congress won three of the four seats contested and polled 4.5 per cent votes. The leads of different political parties in different assembly segments for the Lok Sabha elections suggest that the RJD led in 114 assembly seats, the LJP in 28, and the Congress in 17. On the other hand, the BJP led only in 28 assembly segments and the JD(U) in 45.
The writer is a fellow at CSDS, Delhi
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