Bihar Polls: Direct contest between NDA, Grand Alliance

Bihar Assembly Election: Direct contest between NDA, Mahagathbandhan

Previous elections show that small party alliances have not seen much success

Voters undergo thermal screening at a polling booth as they stand in queues to cast their votes for the first phase of Bihar Assembly Election. Credit: PTI Photo

With the first phase of polling over, the contest seems to be a direct one in Bihar between NDA and Mahagathbandhan with BJP and RJD being the main contenders.

Despite LJP leader Chirag Paswan sharpening his attack on Nitish Kumar, the Bihar Chief Minister refrained from replying in the same tone. However, he kept the RJD at the centre of its attack.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election rally on Wednesday sought to revive the memory of alleged 'jungle raj' (rule of lawlessness) during Lalu Prasad's time when he called Tejashwi Yadav the 'Yuvraj of Jungle Raj'.

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Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was wooed back by Nitish Kumar as a Dalit alternative to Chirag, slammed Tejashwi Yadav as "childish" and "inexperienced".

Now the indications are that the contest may remain bipolar despite new alliances and parties contesting the polls.

Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP is contesting in alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM and BSP, while Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav has formed Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA) in alliance with Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan's Azad Samaj Party, the Bahujan Mukti Party (BMP) and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).

Experience of other elections shows that small party alliances have not worked well in Bihar. The bigger parties like RJD, BJP and JD(U) in the state, however, may have to put up with not so big a show of their allies.

The RJD is contesting in 144 seats, the maximum number of seats being contested by any political party. Congress, which had won 27 of 41 seats it contested in 2015 (when JD(U), RJD and Congress were together) is this time contesting a whopping 70 seats and its performance will have a bearing on the overall performance of the grand alliance.

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Indications are that the RJD could have a much better strike rate. Of the 29 seats given to Left in the grand alliance, CPI-ML has got 19, which could be a problem area for the grand alliance as well. In 2015, CPI-ML had won three seats while CPI and CPI-M had scored zero.

In the last assembly polls, BJP got 24.4% votes and won, though it won only 53 (33% strike rate) of 157 seats it contested. The RJD won 80 of 101 seats it contested and got 18.4% votes. JD(U) won 71 of 101 (71%) seats and got 16.8 % votes while Congress which had got only 6.7 % votes won 27 seats at a strike rate of nearly 70%.

Upendra Kuhwaha's RLSP and Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP which had contested as part of NDA had won only two seats out of 23 and 40 seats that they contested respectively out while another NDA ally Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM could win only one of 21 it contested then.

With LJP and RLSP out of NDA's fold, their share has largely gone to BJP and JD(U), which could work to NDA's advantage. In the NDA bandwagon, many feel that 11 seats to Vikassheel Insan Party of Mukesh Sahani and six to Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM may create some difficulties and JD(U)'s strike rate this time may not match the past performance.

LJP, which had fought the February 2005 election alone on 178 seats, won only 29 seats when Ram Vilas Paswan was at the peak of his political career. That was LJP's best show. 

The BJP is now singing "Nitish only" tune and repeatedly slamming Chirag Paswan. It remains to be seen whether Chirag Paswan has read the political mood of the state properly or not.