Lalu in a ‘do or die’ battle
Lok Sabha election in Bihar is crucial for the future of Lalu’s family. Since, Lalu himself is convicted and most probably he may never fight any future election, he is fighting for retaining the political hold of his family over Bihar. It is a ‘do or die’ battle for him, because a massive defeat of his party may end the hegemony of his family and he will not be in a position to thrust his next generation on his supporters to lead them.
Lalu started on a weak wicket, when his party geared for final showdown. Some of his MLAs had left his Dal, Ram Vilas Paswan shifted side to Narendra Modi and Congress was giving him sleepless nights over seat adjustment. Later, he forced the Congress to join hands with him and started campaigning in his own way. Now polling on many of Bihar seats have taken place and the remaining seats will go for poll in the next two phases, the scene has changed for better for Lalu, his party and his alliance. Congress and NCP are his poll partners and their candidates are in straight fight on most of the seats of Bihar with BJP and its alliance partners.
Lalu is banking on Muslim-Yadav (MY) political alliance. As per 2001 census, Muslim constitutes 16.5 per cent of the total population of Bihar, while according to various estimates Yadavas constitute around 14 per cent of the total population. They together constitute over 30 per cent of the population of Bihar and give Lalu and his alliance a solid support base. Situation in many constituencies became more favourable to Lalu candidates, because the MY alliance constitutes 35 to 45 per cent of total voters of those individual constituencies. That is why in some of the constituencies; it is very difficult or almost impossible to defeat Lalu candidates, unless there is a one on one fight.
In last Lok Sabha elections, Lalu candidates could not win in large number. Lalu himself tasted defeat in one of the two constituencies, where he was contesting. Only four candidates of his RJD could get elected. The reason of the defeat for most of his candidates was the split of votes of his MY combine and consolidation of anti-Lalu votes with BJP-JD(U) alliance. Now the situation has changed. BJP and
JD(U) have parted their company, while Muslims as well as Yadavas seem to have polarised towards Lalu in a big way. Nitish was also trying to poach in Muslims by creating OBC and upper caste divide among them. To create a support base among them, Nitish did everything he could do, but Muslims are a political community. They have nothing against Nitish now. They praise him for being critical about Narendra Modi. They appreciate him for leaving NDA, but they are not voting for them, because Nitish cannot ensure the defeat of BJP candidates. Lalu commands the support of the single largest caste (Yadava) having around 14 per cent population, while the caste of Nitish, i.e., Kurmi is hardly two per cent of the total population. Though Nitish is depending upon the OBCs and Mahadalits, they are not political communities in the sense of Muslim or Yadavas. OBCs are subdivided into two groups since Karpoori Thakur days, but there have never been political rivalries between these two groups on the basis of their division. There is no political grouping like MBC in Bihar. Similarly, Mahadalit card is not working there. Bereft of solid support base among non Muslim population, Nitish has failed in luring the Muslim voters away from Lalu.
Muslims have always been supportive to Lalu since early 1990s. But their level of support was declining after 1991 Lok Sabha election, when Lalu candidates had won 39 out of 40 seats of present day Bihar. Now it seems 1991 has repeated itself, so long as the Muslim support to Lalu is concerned. This has given an edge to many RJD, Congress and NCP candidates over BJP and its alliance partner. Even the support of Yadavas is much more coherent, though some of the young Yadavas have also got attracted towards Narendra Modi. Will Lalu repeat 1991 in Bihar? There is no question of repetition because almost all OBCs and SCs were solidly behind him and he was aligned with CPI and CPM also during the election. Now the support base of Lalu is confined to Yadavas and Muslims only. In this situation, the chances of success of Lalu candidates are only there, where this MY alliances constitute over 40 per cent votes and if the contests are triangular. In straight contests, even MY alliance fails in yielding success.
It is clear that RJD and Congress along with NCP will increase its tally in comparison with 2009, which had given four seats to RJD and two to Congress. It may give Lalu delight, but his real test is in Pataliputra and Saran Lok Sabha constituencies, where his daughter and wife are contesting. Both these Lok Sabha seats have high concentration of Yadavas, but unfortunately for Lalu, Muslims are not present there in large number. IPA