The game is now set for the crucial Assembly elections in Bihar. The electoral battle will not only decide who rules the state for the next five years, but also influence the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal in the next couple of years.On the surface, it looks to be a one sided battle, with the Janata Dal United-BJP ruling alliance having an upper hand. After long negotiations, the two parties have agreed on almost a 50-50 split of the seats they are to contest.
Of the total 243 seats, the JDU is contesting 122 while the BJP is to fight on 121 seats. Both parties are accommodating some minor parties within their quotas.On the other side of the fence, the RJD and the Congress have, after protracted negotiations going to the wire, worked out a seat sharing arrangement which also accommodates the Left parties.But it is by no means a straight fight between two coalitions. The Lok Janshakti Party of late union minister Ram Bilas Paswan is fighting alone even while being a part of the BJP led National Democratic Alliance at the Centre.
Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and AIMIM have formed an alliance with some other minor parties to give a fourth dimension to the upcoming battle at the hustings.This will be the first election in Bihar in decades without the active participation of two political stalwarts, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and LJP founder Ram Bilas Paswan.Lalu Prasad Yadav has secured bail in three of the four fodder scam cases in which he has been convicted and is undergoing jail sentences. But he is unlikely to secure bail in the fourth case before the elections are over in Bihar.The role of the Lok Janshakti Party led by Chirag Paswan will be crucial. The party will not be putting up candidates in constituencies which the BJP is fighting. It will be fighting seats where the JDU is in the fray.
Obviously, the tactic will help the BJP but cut into the votes of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JDU.It is not clear yet how Nitish Kumar will tackle this political challenge.The outcome of the Bihar Assembly elections will have a tremendous impact on the subsequent elections in other crucial states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. It will also be a pointer to the public response to the so-called farm sector reforms legislated by the Narendra Modi government. If the NDA registers an emphatic victory in the elections, it will embolden the Narendra Modi dispensation to come up with more measures to carry forward its agenda. On the other hand, a respectable performance by the RJD-Congress will be a setback for the BJP ruling at the Centre. Of course, it will also be a come down for Nitish Kumar.
The Bihar voters will have the final say.