NDA, Grand Alliance confident of win as smaller factions eye inroads - Hindustan Times
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NDA, Grand Alliance confident of win as smaller factions eye inroads

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySmriti Kak Ramachandran and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Nov 07, 2020 07:12 AM IST

The NDA comprises the Janata Dal (United), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahani, popularly known as ‘Son of Mallah’.

As campaigning for the third and final phase of the Bihar assembly election ended on Thursday, both the major camps, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Opposition Grand Alliance (GA), exuded confidence about their prospects even as smaller parties and formations cautioned that they were capable of emerging kingmaker in a close election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wave at party supporters during an election rally, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, in Bhagalpur, Bihar on Thursday, April 11,2019.(Photo by Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wave at party supporters during an election rally, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, in Bhagalpur, Bihar on Thursday, April 11,2019.(Photo by Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times)

The NDA comprises the Janata Dal (United), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahani, popularly known as ‘Son of Mallah’.

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Apart from Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress, the constituents of the ‘grand alliance’ are Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI(ML).

Other formations in the fray are Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA), headed by Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) chief Rajesh Ranjan popularly known as Pappu Yadav and Azad Samaj Party of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad. Grand Democratic Secular Front (GDSF)consists of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RSLP), All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Jantantrik Party and Samajwadi Janata Dal Democratic.

A big factor this time is the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which walked out of the NDA in the state and has put up candidates in 137 of the 243 seats. Party chief Chirag Paswan has bitterly criticised chief minister Nitish Kumar, put up NDA rebels as candidates against Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in many seats, and is banking on a wave in favour of his late father and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan. In past state elections in 2010 and 2015, the LJP captured 6.7% and 4.8% of the votes, respectively.

Traditionally, the two major formations in Bihar have netted between two-thirds and three-fourths of the vote, according to data from Trivedi Centre for Political Data. In 2005, the NDA won 36% of the vote, while the RJD+ won 31%; in 2010, the NDA won 391% while the RJD+ won 25.6% while in 2015, the NDA won 34% of the vote while the GA won 41.8%. In the past three assembly elections, the so-called third front managed to hold on to at least a quarter of the vote.

There are two key questions for the big alliances: Will LJP eat into the JD(U) votes, and will AIMIM-BSP hurt the GA, especially in the Muslim, Dalit dominated Seemanchal region?

The NDA is confident of its victory.

“The election is between NDA and Mahagathbandhan. Presence of newer alliances are not new to Bihar, but BJP and JD(U) have a vote share of 30-40% which is higher than the 10-20% share that these smaller parties with limited clout have,” said a senior BJP functionary.

The JD(U) is dismissive of small factions upsetting its vote bank.

“Apart from the fact that Nitish Kumar has changed the face of Bihar and brought in development, there is no denying that he holds considerable clout among Mahadalits (a sub-category of scheduled castes and together with Dalits make up for about 18% of the state’s population), Kushwaha-Koeri-Kurmi combination that is about 12-14%, apart from women,” said a JD(U) leader.

A second BJP functionary in Delhi claimed the NDA will cross the majority mark of 122.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s rallies infused fresh energy and gave the election campaign fresh impetus. The rallies galvanised and charged up the atmosphere,” said the leader on condition of anonymity.

A third functionary pointed to the high turnouts – 55.69 % in phase 1 and 55.7 % in phase – to indicate that the NDA will return to power.

The BJP is confident that its ticket distribution formula, which gave representation to all castes, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda will swing the outcome in the NDA’s favour. “There are some seats where the contest is close, there are some constituencies where the caste matrix is slightly tricky but people are now voting on larger issues such as development and jobs that only the NDA can provide,” the functionary said.

The Grand Alliance said it is certain it will get two-thirds majority.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav even listed his priorities as chief minister - providing one million jobs and and bringing a law to nullify the recent farm laws passed by the Centre. “Come November 10, Bihar will witness a new dawn,” the RJD leader said.

Yadav also dismissed speculation that LJP, BSP, AIMIM and RLSP will dent his prospects. “Biharis have the highest political awareness in the country and these A, B, C parachute alliances of the BJP will have no impact,” he claimed.

Congress leaders echoed Yadav’s views and claimed the GA will win around 140 seats.

“Muslims see AIMIM as a vote-katwa (vote-divider) party and have immense faith in the leadership Rahul Gandhi and Tejashwi Yadav,” said senior Congress leader Mohammad Shamim Akhtar.

AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi contested that.

“We fought against Shiv Sena in Aurangabad (Maharashtra) and won. Now, Congress shares power with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and that is fine with these so-called secular parties. This is sheer hypocrisy. If you support them, then you are secular and if you don’t then you are communal” he said.

Mukesh Sahni of VIP and Upendra Kushwaha of RLSP also contended that the third and fourth fronts shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Tejashwi got the party (RJD) in virasat (inheritance). His father Lalu Prasad was a big leader, but he lacks experience and he lacks discipline,” Sahni said.

“People of Bihar want an end of Nitish Kumar’s 15 years of misrule and on the other hand the GA does not have a credible face,” Kushwaha added.

Political analysts agreed that the fight was largely between the NDA and the GA. “Smaller alliances do not have pan-Bihar presence are not strong enough to dent the support base of either the NDA or Mahagathbandhan,” said Patna-based analyst Ajay Kumar Jha.

Analyst Manisha Priyam said these factions are representatives of the state-specified politics. “It is the poor and smaller sections who are reflecting themselves through smaller formations,” she said.

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