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FPJ Edit: Head-start for ruling alliance in Bihar poll battle

Free Press Journal 2020-06-29 07:00:00

Normal politics is beginning to play out in small doses. The Gandhi family has taken to questioning the Prime Minister on a daily basis about the on-going stalemate at the Indo-China border. The rest of the Opposition, in contrast, has lent support to the Government on its handling of the Chinese threat. The Family is also using social media to make discordant noises about some of the developments in the BJP-ruled States. Priyanka Gandhi regularly picks on something or the other in Yogi Adityanath’s UP in relation to the battle against the coronavirus, quite unmindful of the mishandling of the same challenge by the Congress-run governments. Ignoring the plank in your own eye to point a speck in your rival’s is par for the course in politics. Be that as it may, it is inconceivable that no senior leader in the Opposition would wake up to the next big challenge that it awaits them. Bihar, a bellwether State electorally, is set to elect a new Assembly later this month. If held on scheduled the poll should be held anytime before end-November. Hopefully, the uncertainty and disruption caused by the , pandemic would have sufficiently petered out for the Election Commission to take a call on sticking to the schedule. Of course, we cannot see how Bihar, or, for that matter, any other State can have a free and fair election by mail-in voting, particularly given rampant poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. Besides the logistics involved in successfully conducting such a novel exercise are mind-boggling. Therefore, as of now it is safe to assume that we will have a regular poll in Bihar later this year. By all accounts, JD(U) Chief Nitish Kumar would seek a fourth term as chief minister in the company of his old ally, the BJP.

Though there is nothing to write home about in his performance, yet he seems to be sitting pretty to renew his lien on the chief ministerial gaddi for five more years. In his first term as chief minister Nitish had earned his spurs as sushashan babu for ridding the State of the lawlessness and anarchy that was the hallmark of the Laloo Yadav-Rabri Yadav years in power. On the economic front, Nitish performed miserably, failing to keep the promise of vigorous industrialisation and attracting fresh domestic and foreign investment to Bihar. Socio-economic indices, too, did not improve much, though he succeeded to a large extent in curbing political and administrative corruption. However, the biggest strength of the incumbent JD(U)-BJP alliance lies in the compete disarray in the Opposition ranks. The tallest leader, Laloo Yadav, is still cooling his heels in prison on corruption conviction. His chosen political heir, Tejashwi Yadav, despite showing early promise, has muffed it up. As the leader of the largest party in the Opposition, the RJD leader projects himself as the chief ministerial candidate, but this is not acceptable to smaller groups. The RJD itself has been convulsed by internal dissensions. Its senior-most leader outside the Yadav clan, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, has threatened to quit in protest against Tejashwi’s decision to embrace Singh’s chief rival who had contested the last parliamentary poll against him. Last week five of the eight RJD MLCs quit the party to join the JD(U). It signified a lack of confidence in the leadership of Tejashwi ahead of the crucial Assembly poll. Other Opposition groups such as Jitin Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Party and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriay Lok Samta Party have pockets of influence but are unwilling to throw their weight Tejashwi-led RJD. Both Manjhi and Kushwaha have been part of the ruling alliance in the past, and it is anyone’s guess where the two will find themselves on the eve of the polling. Neither commands support outside his numerically small caste groups but can help bigger parties win a few more seats than they would without the votes of their caste-brothers. As for the Congress Party, its lack of a State-level leader and failure to attract the solid backing of a major caste leaves it without any bargaining party in the potential opposition alliance. Without doubt, RJD still relies on the support of the Yadav-Muslim vote-bank. But without wider unity in the Opposition ranks, it may be easy-going for the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance. Amit Shah may have already sounded the poll bugle earlier this month when he addressed the party faithful through a video-platform.