Patna: As poll bugle has been sounded, Bihar politics is witnessing unseemly attacks and counter-attacks between the two major political formations — the National Democratic Alliance and the Grand Alliance — berating each other allegedly for the present and past failures.
It is fast turning out to be a verbal wrangle over 15 years of Lalu-Rabri regime versus 15 years of Nitish Kumar reign as both the rivals leave nothing to chance to disparage each other in the game of political one-upmanship.
It all began with the blistering attack mounted by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over alleged ‘mishandling’ of the coronavirus crisis and state government’s flip-flop on bringing students from Kota and migrants stranded in different parts of the country.
Tejashwi along with state party president Jagadanand Singh mounted a hoarding outside the RJD office recently deriding the Nitish government over issuance of a letter by a senior police officer saying that the law and order would worsen in days to come as migrants might resort to criminal activities in the absence of employment. To express his anger, Tejashwi tore the letter at a media conference.
The Janata Dal (U) did not lag behind and put up a huge billboard enlisting 73 properties amassed allegedly through unscrupulous means by RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and his family on the occasion of his 73rd birth anniversary. The JD (U) claimed that the list of properties acquired by Lalu and family through political muscle power is still being compiled.
While the war of one-upmanship continues, the ground realities for both the alliances appear to be challenging.
On part of the RJD, the focus so far has only been to deride and belittle Nitish Kumar and make personal attacks on him. But the strategy of attacking Nitish Kumar alone will not fetch votes unless the RJD expands its social base among other castes. The Muslim and Yadav (M-Y) voters stand solidly behind the RJD-Congress combine constituting nearly 30 per cent of the total votes.
But there seems to be no attempt to add other castes to its electoral base so far. The RJD-Congress combine need to shore up its strength in the wake of remarkable performance of the NDA with 53.25 per cent votes and 39 out of 40 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
According to an estimate, aggressive voting by Muslims and Yadavs can yield nearly 50 assembly seats as per the social construct of the 243 constituencies in Bihar. If the grand alliance has to assume power, it needs support of other social groups that vote aggressively like Paswans among the Dalits, Kushwaha among the backward castes besides Dhanuks and Mallahs among the Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs).
Barring erecting some posters, the RJD has neither begun the pre-poll exercise of galvanizing its party workers nor made any attempt to keep the Grand Alliance united resolving the knotty issues like the face of the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. The Grand Alliance stands fractured as the smaller parties are either mulling to switch over to NDA bandwagon or form another platform of splinter groups.
It is learnt that the RJD and Congress are seriously contemplating to dump Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) led by Jitan Ram Manjhi and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) led by Mukesh Sahani as the two parties have become more a liability than asset. In the parliamentary polls, the self-proclaimed leaders of the Mahadalits and Nishads (Mallah) could neither secure votes of their caste nor transfer them to other allies.
The Congress, however, is lenient on keeping the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) led by Upendra Kushwaha on board as the Kushwahas (Koeris) constitute nearly six per cent of the votes. It is learnt that Kushwaha may be declared candidate for the post of deputy Chief Minister of the Grand Alliance.
On the contrary, the NDA is fully geared up as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda have addressed virtual rallies as part of the interaction programme with the grassroots party workers. The BJP has already begun distribution of a letter issued by Prime Minister among people indicating the changed mode of campaign in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The JDU president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who held review meetings with the officials on coronavirus almost every day during the lockdown, has also now started addressing party functionaries and workers in the districts through videoconferencing every day.
In course of his interactions with the party workers, Nitish has also given befitting replies to the RJD leadership ridiculing the Lalu-Rabri regime as ‘Pati-Patni ki Sarkar’ and telling people that ‘terror has replaced trust’ and ‘faith has replaced fear’ in the last 15 years.
It signals that the JD (U) and BJP would fight the upcoming state polls on the issue of Lalu Prasad’s 15-year ‘misrule’ versus good governance under 15-year rule of the NDA. The catchphrase coined is ‘Bhay banam Bharosa’ to signify the alleged Jungle Raj versus Sushasan.
Nitish has asked party workers to reach out to voters who have just turned 18 telling them how things were in Bihar in 2005 when he took over – no education, no electricity and no law and order. The posters put up by the JD (U) have shown Lalu Prasad with Shahabuddin and Raj Vallabh Yadav. While Lalu himself is serving sentences in fodder scam cases, Shahabuddin is behind the bars in several cases and former Nawada MLA Raj Vallabh Yadav has been convicted for rape of a minor.
Senior JD(U) leaders claimed that recent series of attack on the chief minister by the RJD and Congress over alleged ‘mishandling’ of the migrants’ issue has been blunted as people are returning homes satisfied from the quarantine centres. “They have been given Rs 5300 each while many schemes have been launched for employment as per their skills. Over Rs 8000 crore has been spent from different heads to provide relief to the migrants so far,” Bihar minister Niraj Kumar said.
There is no hiccup among NDA allies as the three partners BJP, JD (U) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) stand almost united though the LJP leader Chirag Paswan has recently ruffled the feelings of Nitish Kumar by indirectly questioning his claim for the post of the chief minister.
Chirag had recently said that the LJP is strongly with the BJP whatever decision it takes on the face of leader of the alliance. He also made claims on 43 out of 243 assembly seats though his party was geared up to fight 119 seats.
But Amit Shah declared that Nitish would be the chief ministerial face at his virtual rally on June 7 thus dispelling doubts in the minds of a section of BJP leaders as well as the LJP.
The opposition RJD and Congress combine is also trying to invoke the reservation issue once again to consolidate the backward caste vote bank. But the issue now is no more the sole prerogative of the RJD as the BJP led by Narendra Modi and JD (U) led by Nitish Kumar have more claims on the social justice bloc by virtue of their work.