Battle of Bihar: The die is cast(e)

Battle of Bihar: The die is cast(e)

Bihar Parliamentary Constituency Map (Election Commission)

“Der aaye, par durust aaye (Better late than never),” commented Leader of the Opposition Tejashwi Yadav on the inordinate delay in stitching the Mahagatbandhan alliance in Bihar.

With this announcement, the battle lines were clearly drawn for a fierce and bitter fight for the Lok Sabha polls in all the 40 parliamentary constituencies in Bihar.

While the NDA, barring minor hiccups, was prompt and decisive in announcing the constituencies and the candidates, the Grand Alliance took its own sweet time in quelling dissent and declaring its nominees. “The delay was more because there were many players in Mahagatbandhan, unlike the NDA which had to deal with the BJP, JD (U) and the LJP,” said Tejashwi.

While the BJP and JD (U) have fielded 17 candidates each, the LJP has declared its nominees for the remaining six seats. The LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, however, will not be contesting Lok Sabha polls (for the first time in the last 50 years) from his bastion Hajipur. Instead, he will be accommodated in Rajya Sabha as reported by Deccan Herald on November 9 last year.

Of the Mahagatbandhan allies, the RJD has got the lion’s share of 19 out of 40 seats, while leaving nine seats for Congress and five constituencies for former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha’s pocket organisation RLSP. Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM and ‘son of Mallah’ Mukesh Sahni’s newly-floated party VIP have been given three seats each. One seat has been left for the ultra-Left wing CPI-ML.

Cast(e)ing Aspersions

True to its characteristics and one of the winning formulas adopted since 1990, the RJD has fallen back on M-Y, the Muslim-Yadav combination. Out of 19 candidates, the RJD has fielded 12 from this group (eight Yadavs and four Muslims). And it has reasons to do so. In this part of the cow-belt, Muslims comprise 17.5 per cent of the population while Yadavs 12.5. Together, this combination has rooted for Lalu since 1990 (barring 2005 to 2014, when some of them shifted their allegiance to Nitish’s JD-U).

In the absence of jailed Lalu, his son and heir apparent Tejashwi has been doing what his father was adept at doing. Playing the caste card. “If Modi can give ten per cent reservation to upper castes, which then exceeds the Supreme Court-mandated 50 per cent quota limit, then we would demand: ‘Jiski jaisi abaadi, uski waisi bhaagedari (Bring in a reservation system as per the quantum of population),” says Tejashwi in his each and every public rally. In Bihar, there are 14 per cent upper castes, while the others, including Minorities, represent the remaining 86 per cent.

The BJP is, however, countering the caste card vigorously. Apart from “Sabka saath, sabka vikas” slogan, the BJP-led NDA is harping on “Modi hai toh mumkin hai (It’s possible if it’s Modi).”

In the process, ‘vikas’ (development) has gone for a toss.


Total Lok Sabha seats: 40

Total population: 11.7 crore

Total voters: 7.06 crore

Elections to be held: In seven phases (April 11, 18, 23, 29, May 6, 12, 19)

2014 winners (party-wise): BJP:22, LJP:6, RLSP:3

RJD:4, Cong:2, NCP:1, JD (U):2

Key contestants & constituencies: Meira Kumar (Sasaram), Shatrughan Sinha (Patna Sahib), Misa Bharti (Pataliputra), Tariq Anwar (Katihar), Giriraj Singh Vs Kanhaiya Kumar (Begusarai), Chirag Paswan (Jamui), Jitan Ram Manjhi (Gaya).