Apparently, the social combination of BJP-JDU-LJP is stronger than the opposition which is yet to take a concrete shape. No doubt RJD and Congress are most likely to team up at the moment while nothing can be said about the three other allies i.e, RLSP, VIP and HAM, which were part of the Grand Alliance (GA) in the last Lok Sabha election. Although, at the time of writing this piece, the tension prevails in NDA too, as LJP and JDU is on collision course.
Contrary to the view of many political analysts, the anger among large section of the people, especially, migrant labourers, remains palpable in post lock down Bihar against ruling dispensation. This may potentially, to a great extent, neutralise the apparent advantage of ruling combination. The vocal migrant labourers, largely consist of subaltern castes, have, across the state, dealt a huge blow to the perception management of Nitish Kumar led NDA government.
Moreover, majority of the state’s population is composed of poor and migrant labourers who suffered very badly due to the lock down. Speak to habitats of slums and subaltern colonies, the rage with which they describe the government apathy towards them, especially during lock down, speaks volumes. The prevalent resentment which threatens to stretch in coming months, given the rising cases of COVID-19 and its impact on economy coupled with strong anti-incumbency, may jolt the NDA prospect.
After grabbing power in 2005, Nitish led NDA government did some good work particularly on law and order and infrastructure fronts. However, it lost the plot in its second term when the relation between JDU and BJP started to worsen, which eventually led to the break up in June 2013.
The dire condition of state’s education and health sector paint a shoddy picture on Nitish’s so called development claim and put his tenure in same bracket as Lalu-Rabri rule. Although new buildings were constructed for schools, the quality of teachers’ appointment under Nitish government was definitely worse than the previous one. So, the overall situation turned from bad to worse.
Moreover, migrant labourer crisis exposed the failure of 15 years of NDA rule in establishing or bringing industries to the state. In fact, the phenomenon of migration has surged during this period. Incidentally, two railway engine factories set up in Bihar—one in Saran and the other one in Madhepura district—were actually brought by Lalu Yadav when he was railway minister between 2004 and 2009.
If Nitish led NDA today once again wants to take refuge in so called jungle raj of one and a half decade back, it only revealed this underlying insecurity of the government on performance front. Most of the analyses which predict comfortable sailing for NDA largely ignore these ground realities.
While as far as social combination of Grand Alliance is concerned it is argued that over the year, the large chunks of respective caste groups that Upendra Kushwaha’s, Mukesh Sahni’s and Jitanram Manjhi’s outfits claim to represent, have shifted their loyalty primarily towards BJP. On the other hand, the saffron party has found success in breaking away sizable number of Yadav votes as well.
However, the counter view is that true nature of caste affiliations become evident in assembly elections. Therefore, the impact of the smaller constituents would be proved in upcoming assembly elections. The political observers who closely look after Bihar politics are of the view that a majority of Yadav voters who went for NDA in 2019 Lok Sabha election will back Lalu Yadav’s party in assembly election.
On the other hand, Muslims, who were instrumental in Grand Alliance victory in 2015, have been feeling cheated by Nitish Kumar, first for switching over to the NDA midway and then for supporting the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA). It must be reminded that Nitish, in spite of having association with BJP, has been successful in cultivating good rapport with Muslims and used to get some community votes. Yet, the CAA issue is afresh in their minds therefore the community will stand with RJD for its consistent stand against BJP as well as taking strong stand against CAA.
Besides, many young folks cutting across caste lines are charmed by the RJD’s de facto leader Tejaswi Yadav. The social media savvy RJD’s Young Turk has been quite effective in highlighting government’s failure.
On the other hand, in recent assembly election in Jharkhand, the NDA was defeated by Hemant Soren led Grand Alliance though the former had won 12 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in last general elections. Therefore, nothing can be said on the basis of Lok Sabha election results.
(The writer, a political analyst, is associated with Bihar Times. Views are personal)