Millennium Post

There will be just no walkover

There will be just no walkover
Now it has become a certainty that Congress is aligning with Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Yadav and in its alliance Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan and Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar will also be partners. For all purposes it will be a grand UPA alliance. For a long time Congress was dithering over making a choice between Lalu and Nitish Kumar. When Nitish was in NDA, many Congress leaders were giving hints that their party may align with his JD(U) once he broke his alliance with BJP. Nitish came out of the alliance, but Congress leaders soon realised that Lalu is a bigger force than Nitish in Bihar because of his caste based support. In the caste sensitive politics of Bihar, Lalu enjoys the solid support of his caste men, who account for 12 per cent of the total population of the state, while Nitish Kumar’s caste men form only two per cent of the total population. He could attract floating OBCs votes only because of his association with BJP. Naturally Congress leaders decided to align with RJD, which has got a sympathy boost due to the conviction of Lalu in fodder scam case.

Ramvilas Paswan was also thinking of joining hands with Nitish Kumar, because Lalu was not promising him the seats, he was asking for. Nitish might give him more seats to field their candidates, but their winning chances were not bright. So he is now ready to get settled with the fewer seats left for his party by RJD. Tariq Anwar of NCP has also succeeded this time to get a seat or two from RJD to become a part of UPA in Bihar.

The first impact of this grand UPA alliance in Bihar will be the consolidation of Muslim votes in its favor. So far Muslims were confused whether to go with Nitish or Lalu. Lalu Yadav is naturally their first choice, but by taking a strong line against Narendra Modi, Nitish has created his own goodwill among the Muslims. With two choices at their hands, they were watching Congress move. Now Congress has moved towards Lalu, so now they find their problem solved.

The second impact of this alliance may be the marginalisation of Nitish Kumar in the politics of Bihar during Lok Sabha elections. Getting Muslim support was very crucial for Nitish. He severed his links with BJP only to get Muslim support. He was of the view that with the conviction of Lalu in fodder scam, his RJD would become very weak and Muslims would not like to go with him, rather they would like to join the ruling party of Bihar in their quest to enjoy power and to defeat BJP. Nitish also thought that Congress would not like to join hands with Lalu, once he is convicted. He was also thinking that Ramvilas Paswan will ultimately join hands with him to remain relevant in politics.

But all calculation of Nitish went wrong. The conviction of Lalu generated strong sympathy for him at least among his caste men. His party RJD was able to send message throughout Bihar that he got convicted because of his works for the poor, backwards and scheduled castes. The rallies and meetings addressed by Rabri Devi after the conviction of Lalu Yadav were attracting large crowds and Congress leader saw in those crowds the revival of the Yadav leader of Bihar rather than his political decimation. The ordinance to allow convicted MPs to retain their seats and seek further elections was only prompted by the wish of Congress to align with Lalu in Bihar. Anyway, the ordinance was aborted, but the plan of Congress to have alliance with Lalu was still on.

The third impact of this alliance will be the polarisation of votes between UPA and BJP. BJP was never a big force in Bihar, though it was always the main opposition during Lalu Rabri rule. The advancement of BJP in Bihar politics was blocked because of its image of an anti Mandal party. That is why, it had to promote Nitish to attract the OBC voters who are getting restless because of the non performance of Lalu Rabari government. But, now it has projected Narendra Modi as the PM candidate and he belongs to an OBC caste, BJP has been able to change his image from an anti OBC party to pro OBC party. OBC constitutes around 66 per cent of Bihar population, in which 12 per cent are Muslims. The remaining 54 percentage of Hindu OBCs have 12 per cent Yadavas and two percent Kurmis electorate. Hence the rest 40 per cent OBCs voters have now become the main vote base for BJP. The good news for BJP is that upper castes consisting of 16 per cent voters are more or less still with it, despite Narendra Modi getting projected as its prime ministerial candidate.

Though the emergence of Modi as one of the tallest leaders of the country is not because of his caste background, it matters in the politics of Bihar, where the political parties and their leaders harp on caste and community. Lalu Yadav, too, is trying to weave a potent caste and communal combination. He is hoping to get majority of Yadav and Muslim votes, who together constitute over 28 percent of total population. Along with them, Paswan constituting five per cent of the population provides another social base for the UPA. Lalu Yadav hopes to get good number of Rajput votes too. Along with these support bases, Lalu is likely to place emotional card among other OBCs also. Since he is in opposition in Bihar for last ten years, OBCs are expected to have softened their opposition to Lalu. Hence, the UPA led by Lalu cannot be taken lightly now.

Bihar will witness the polarisation of votes not only as pro-Modi and anti-Modi, but also as pro-Lalu and anti-Lalu.

These two varieties of polarisation will decide the electoral outcome. How much and to what extent the election result will be affected by these polarisations is still not clear, but what is clear is that JD(U) will suffer most in the process.

IPA

Upendra Prasad

Upendra Prasad

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