Monday, October 4, 2010

Bihar Assembly Elections: Tough Time For Nitish And Lalu

The main opposition party in Bihar ,the RJD, led by Lalu Prasad Yadav still remains well entrenched in Bihar politics. In the 2009 general Lok Sabha elections though he had to face a humiliating defeat, it does not mean at all that he has lost his grips in Bihar.

The upcoming Bihar Assembly elections constitute an important political laboratory. It puts all the political parties to a reality check.

According to the media reports, as many as 30,000 aspirants filed their biodatas to be considered as the nominees from the JDU, the RJD, the INC, the LJP and others. This is for the first time that the 243-member Bihar legislative assembly saw aspirants in thousands and not in hundreds as was the case in the past.

The Janata Dal United has been facing anti-incumbency factor. However, the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is said to have done a great deal of work towards the upliftment of Bihar and people say that his work has brought development. During his 57 month tenure, he has approved a Rs 815 crore ambitious project for Mahadalits (a separate category for 18 sub-castes of Dalits). The steps taken for empowerment of extremely backward castes, Mahadalits and minorities are praiseworthy.

Maoists have a stronghold in the state. Nitish never opposed them openly. Rather Nitish told the Maoists to eschew violence and take part in the election process.
The main opposition RJD led by Lalu Prasad remains to be in a position that cannot be termed weak. In the 2009 general Lok Sabha elections though he had to face humiliating defeat, it does not mean at all that he has lost his grips in Bihar.

There are also the rumours that Congress in a secret agreement with Lalu.
In a state like Bihar caste assumes great significance. The Yadav community is strong in the state. It has been supporting Lalu Yadav. This time, whether the whole community, will be with Lalu is difficult to predict. Many members of the community have joined the Maoist outfits who do not lend support to any party on caste basis. Nitish has no direct conflict with the Maoists. But it should not be assumed that they will vote for JDU.

It is true that the Maoists held hostage Jehanabad city for three days in Lalu’s time. In the tenure of Nitish no such incident was reported. Yet, this is not a symbol of their support for the present government.

There is one advantage with Lalu Prasad that the Muslim community, that may play kingmaker in the elections, is with him. Majority in the Muslim community feel that Lalu is secular and hence deserves their support.

Owing to the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal United could not succeed to establish a secular image. The BJP is known as a communal party.
One cause of worry for Lalu Prasad is that the Indian National Congress seems to be reviving itself in the state. The young leadership of the party’s general secretary Mr. Rahul Gandhi may attract youth to the party. Due to the long association of their forefathers with the party, the Muslim community may turn to it once it is seen on the path of recovery. The youth formula of Gandhi is not only threat to Lalu Prasad but it also might play spoiler for Sharad Yadav’s Janata Dal (United).
In this backdrop, the role of Lokjan Shakti Party should not be ignored. Ram Vilas Paswan would be working out his caste arithmetic with the Dalits and the backward sections.

The Bihar political scenario as a whole is interesting. While Lalu Prasad Yadav would be trying to bring his glory back, the Janata Dal (United) would be trying to continue their rule over the state. Congress will try its best to revive the party in the state under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.

To lure the Muslim vote-bank Nitish Kumar did not allow Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi to campaign for the BJP, RJD’s ally. Both of them are known for being anti-Muslim antics.

By: A. Hameed Yousuf

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