April 04, 2014

BIHAR & LOK SABHA 2014


NDA vs UPA vs THIRD FRONT



The 2014 General Elections in Bihar in many ways, personifies the whole national picture. Many believe that there are three broad formations that are capable of forming the next government in the country. The ruling UPA regime led by the Congress, having ruled the country for two consecutive terms, is the first contender for power. The BJP led NDA is hoping to make a strong comeback under the leadership of a combative Narendra Modi. And then there is the 'Third Front', a confederation of regional satraps keen to keep the tow national parties out of power (Link). While my views on this are known, there are still a few, who buy this idea. Now, coming back to Bihar, you can see that it is one of the few states where all of these three coalitions are strong. The Congress and Lalu Yadav's RJD have renewed their friendship which had been shattered prior to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. After a bitter, public divorce with Nitish, the BJP has managed to get Paswan's LJP and RLSP on their side. Meanwhile, the incumbent CM has been one of the torch bearers of the much-hyped 'Federal Front'. With 40 seats on the line, there is no doubt that the Bihar polls will be one of the most closely fought states in 2014.

ISSUES

(1) The Bihar Growth Model: Muck like Modi, Nitish Kumar never misses any opportunity to talk about his 'Bihar Model' of development. There is no doubt that the state has made tremendous progress in the last nine years under the incumbent CM. The law and order situation which had worsened when the RJD was in power has improved, giving a fillip to industrial growth. The poverty rate has reduced while the literacy figures has gone northward. The issue is going to be the plank on which the JD-U will fight the elections.

(2) Anti-incumbency: After nearly a decade in office, there is no doubt that the JD-U is facing a strong anti-incumbency wave. At many of his rallies and road shows, the Bihar CM has been greeted with black flags and angry demonstrators. Much like the regime in the state, the Congress-led UPA too is facing the heat. The grand old party has failed miserably in tackling corruption and the economy too has weakened over the years. Having pulled out of the Bihar government, the BJP is hopeful that incumbency will not be an issue for it.

(3) The Clash of Personalities: In many ways, the upcoming General Elections is going to be a 'Battle Royale' between three big personalities in Indian politics. On one hand it is the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who has made his national ambitions pretty clear over the last few weeks. The RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav is a wounded tiger who is perhaps fighting the most crucial polls in his political career. And then there Narendra Modi. Having been kept out of Bihar earlier due to opposition from the Nitish camp, the Gujarat CM has a point to prove. If reports are to be believed, there is a lot of support for BJP's PM nominee on the ground.

(4) Special Status: Nitish Kumar has raised the demand for 'Special Status' for Bihar on many platforms. The JD-U believes that the special economic package will be help solve all the problems that plague the state. In fact,  has also said that he will ally with anybody who grants this key demand of this.

(5) Vote Bank Politics: The RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is the master of caste and religion based politics. For years, he depended on the Muslim-Yadav combine to win elections. However, in the last decade, his vote base has eroded considerably. Lalu is hopeful that the anti-incumbency will help him woo back the Yadavs whereas the 'fear' of Modi will lead to consolidation of the Muslims in favor of the UPA. Nitish Kumar is fighting hard to retain the OBC and the EBC (Extremely Backward Caste) votes. One of the reasons for his ugly split with the BJP was to retain the minority votes. Will the gamble pay off? The Upper Caste has stood by the BJP for long. The LJP will help it to get a chunk of the Dalit too behind the NDA.

CONTENDERS

(1) Janata Dal - United (JD-U): After severing ties with the BJP on the candidature of Modi as the PM nominee of the NDA, nothing seems to be going in the favor of Nitish Kumar. While Paswan has joined hands with the BJP, the Congress preferred Lalu over him. While on one hand he is facing anti-incumbency on the ground, several of his close aides including N K Singh and Sabir Ali have deserted him. It is pretty clear that the Bihar CM has national dreams. However for that to happen, the JD-U has to win at least 20 seats. In my opinion, that is impossible. Although it is in alliance with the CPI, there is no doubt that Nitish is facing tough competition from the NDA as well as the UPA. Amongst the candidates declared so far are party president Sharad Yadav (Madhepur), film-maker Prakash Jha (West Champaram) and industrialist Anil Kumar Sharma (Jehanabad).

(2) The NDA: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is going all out in Bihar with its leader Narendra Modi attending several rallies here. I believe that there are two reasons for this. First of course, the saffron outfit wants to do well in the state that elects 40 sends to the Parliament. Secondly, after the JD-U broke off its 17 year old friendship with the NDA, Bihar has become a 'prestige issue' for the party. The saffron camp is banking on its two Modis to get it the votes. Moreover, the party has managed to get two new allies - Paswan's LJP and Kushwaha's RLSP on its side. As per the arrangement with its new-found partners, the saffron outfit will contest 30 seats here. Some high profile names from the BJP who have been given tickets include Rajiv Pratap Rudy (Saran), Shahnawaz Hussain (Bhagalpur) and Kriti Azad (Darbhanga).

Who would have expected, say two months ago that Ramvilas Paswan - the political 'Joker' of state politics would join hands with the BJP. After drawing a blank in the 2009 polls and witnessing a massive erosion in its vote base across Bihar, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) now wants to piggy-bank on the NaMo wave to stay relevant. For the BJP, the re-entry of Paswan into the NDA is highly 'symbolic'. Considering that the LJP chief was the first constituent of the Vajpayee cabinet to withdraw support following the 2002 riots, the move is a sort of endorsement of the fact that parties are ready to forget the past and work with the saffron brigade. Secondly, by wooing Paswan away from both, the JD-U and the INC-RJD combine, the BJP has made a strong statement. The alliance is likely to help the NDA get a fair share of the Dalit votes in Bihar. Amongst the party's candidates are Ramvilas Paswan (Hajipur), his brother Ramachandra Paswan (Samastipura) and son Chirag (Jamui).

The third member of the BJP led coalition in the state is the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP). Formed by OBC leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Upendra Kushwaha in 2013 following his differences with Nitish, the party will contest three seats. The RLSP chief has jumped into the fray from Karkat.

(3) The UPA: Whether you like it or not, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) looks to be on a comeback trail. After being humiliated, first in 2009 Lok Sabha and then in the 2010 state elections, a brief jail term for his involvement in the Fodder Scam, the ‘betrayal’ of Paswan and most importantly, the break-up of the JD(U)-BJP alliance, the former Bihar strongman Lalu Prasad Yadav is aiming to take his tally beyond the 2 digit mark. A spark of the Lalu of yesteryears was visible when he marched to the house of the Speaker of the state assembly with 9 of his 13 'rebel MLAs' in a rickshaw, accusing him of trying to protect the JD-U regime by splitting the RJD. While Yadav may have been debarred from contesting the polls following a court verdict, the party has given tickets to his wife Rabri Devi (Saran), daughter Misa (Patliputra), controversial politician Mohammad Shahbuddin’s wife Hina Shabab (Siwan) and former ministers like Raghuvansh Prasad Yadav (Vaishali) and Mohammad Taslimuddin (Araria). Unhappy after being denied the Patliputra seat, Lalu’s close aide Ram Kripal Yadav has joined the BJP and will contest from here against Misa.

While the Congress has been a fringe player in Bihar for more than two decades, it had an important decision to make ahead of the General Elections - whether to ally with the 'secular' JD-U or rekindle its romance with Lalu. While it chose to join hands with the RJD, this decision could end up impacting the results of at least 5 to 10 seats in the state. Besides Lok Sabha Speaker Meena Kumari (Sasaram), the party has fielded former IPS officer and Kerala governor Nikhil Kumar from Aurangabad.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will fight one seat as a part of the UPA.

PAST PERFORMANCES

In 2004, when the Congress fought the elections in association with Paswan and Lalu Prasad, the UPA swept the state, winning over 70 percent of the parliamentary seats. The NDA was finished with a tally of just 11. However, in the state polls that were fought a year later, the LJP played a spoiler as he refused to ally with the INC and the RJD. As the electorate delivered a fractured mandate, the BJP-JD(U) coalition performed slightly better than the INC-RJD combine. With Paswan refusing to join either of the two fronts, Bihar went for the polls, for the second time later that year. This time though, there was a clear winner. The NDA bagged an impressive 143 seats; Nitish Kumar was sworn in as the Chief Minister. In 2009, the ruling combine bagged 32 of the total 40 seats. The Congress which fought the polls alone after being snubbed by Lalu won 2 seats. Meanwhile, the RJD was reduced to 4 whereas Paswan was not able to even open his account. In the following year, the JD-U and the BJP carried on their good performance, winning an unprecedented landslide victory. Their tally exceeded 200 seats. The RJD, the INC and the LJP were virtually wiped off.

Political Party
2010 SE
2009 LE
Dec. 2005 SE
Feb. 2005 SE
2004 LE
Janata Dal - United (JD-U)
115
20
88
55
6
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
91
12
55
37
5
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)
3
-
10
29
4
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
22
4
54
75
22
Congress (INC)
4
2
9
10
3
Others
8
2
27
37
-

(1) Bihar elects 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
(2) The state has 243 seats in the Legislative assembly.

MY PREDICTIONS

The Modi wave is strong in Bihar and the alliance with Paswan's LJP and RLSP is going to further help the BJP. I expect the NDA to finish with a tally of over 20 seats. The RJD is on a comeback and the pre-poll accord with the Congress will help the UPA to win up to 12 seats. All thanks to anti-incumbency and an ugly split with the BJP, the JD(U) will be lucky to even cross the 2 digit mark.

Political Party
Expected Seats
1
NDA (BJP + LJP + RLSP)
21-25
2
UPA (INC + RJD)
9-13
3
JD-U
5-9
4
Others
1-2

WATCH OUT

(1) The future of the Bihari Babus: The 2014 General Elections will in many ways decide the future of three of the tallest leaders in the state.

The incumbent CM will be watching the elections closely. Having severed the 17 year old ties with the BJP, Nitish Kumar looks extremely weak. The anti-incumbency factor is strong and the Bihar growth story is crumbling. Since the state will go for polls next year, there is no doubt that the big polls will certainly have an impact on them. If the JD-U performs badly, at least that is what I have predicted, then Nitish will find it almost impossible to claim a hat trick.

While Nitish is on a sticky wicket, the polls of 2014 could well seal the fate of Lalu Prasad Yadav and his party, the RJD. Having been decimated, election after election, both in the state and Centre and having been indicted by the courts in the Fodder scam, the former CM is fighting for political relevance. For a politician like Lalu who relied on caste-based politics, rather than development for winning elections, the clock seems to be ticking. If the RJD supremo fails to make an impact in 2014, he will be finished. However, if Lalu can win over 10 seats, his party will emerge stronger in 2014.

The big elections could be a knock out punch for Ram Vilas Paswan and his LJP. Having draw a blank in 2009 and finishing with a meager tally of 3 seats in the last state assembly polls, Paswan has to at least win one seat. The former Railway Minister has taken a big gamble by returning back to the NDA. Will it pay-off? We need to wait till the counting for this.

(2) Switching Loyalties: While the BJP-LJP and INC-RJD alliances have been announced, the scenario could be very different after the results are announced. If the UPA manages to be the largest group post elections, it will not take much for the LJP to join hands with the Congress. Also, in that scenario, the JD-U may extend a helping hand, provided Lalu is out of the picture. If the NDA ends up in pole position, one cannot rule out the fact that JD-U might rejoin the NDA, especially if the saffronists are ready to grant 'Special Status' to Bihar. In fact, except for BJP-Congress or BJP-RJD, all other permutations and combinations can be expected.

(3) The Sons and Daughters: The General Elections will also see the emergence of the second generation of leaders in Bihar from well-established political families. The RJD has given a ticket to Misa Yadav, the eldest daughter of the party supremo from Patliputra. Besides, his young son and political successor Tejaswi Yadav has given up his cricketing career to help his dad do well. Like the younger Yadav, Chirag Paswan has bid adieu to his Bollywood dreams to campaign for his party. He was said to be instrumental in the LJP's alliance with the BJP. 

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)