New Delhi: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar has initiated preparations for the Lok Sabha poll due in May 2019, almost 18 months from now.

Interestingly, both the alliance partners, Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have separately launched a mass contact programme to reach out to the voters.

The state is important for the BJP-JD(U) combine because the NDA had won 31 out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats from here in the 2014 general elections.

With both JD(U) and BJP trying to increase their social base, senior leaders of the two parties say that the outreach would benefit the alliance.

“We are in alliance and there are only 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, so it’s obvious that one political party would not contest on all seats. So these mass contact programmes would only strengthen the alliance because we would be able to help each other and coordinate at the booth level better," said a senior BJP leader from Bihar.

The JD(U) leadership is also planning to organize a meeting of volunteers and party workers later this month which will work to strengthen the organizational network in all the 243 assembly constituencies in Bihar.

“It is the responsibility of every political party to strengthen its organizational network and JD(U) is exactly doing what is required so that we have people or volunteers in every polling booth. The mass outreach programme would give us an opportunity to talk about the work done by the state government under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar," said a senior leader of JD(U).

The same JD(U) leader added that Nitish Kumar will preside over the meeting which will have volunteers from all the assembly constituencies. The meeting is likely to take place in the third week of January.

“JD(U) has always faced criticism that the party is dependent on either BJP or Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) members at the level of polling booth. There is a concerted effort to develop an organizational network so that JD(U) has its own members in every polling booth and we don’t have to depend on any alliance partner," the JD(U) leader added.

The timing of the outreach programme is interesting because in July 2017, Nitish Kumar broke his alliance with the RJD and returned to NDA. With RJD chief Lalu Prasad being convicted in the fodder scam, the JD(U) leadership is trying extend its social base.

“People of Bihar want development and Lalu Prasad stands for caste politics and now corruption charges have been proved. We are confident that people would choose development and good governance over caste differences. The entire leadership of RJD is facing corruption allegations," a second JD(U) leader said.

“The NDA can create a new voter base in Bihar because of the triple talaq bill. If the outreach programme is conducted well, it is possible that BJP and JD(U) could get support of Muslim women who are silent voters. These mass contact programmes would also benefit both the parties in management of polling booths and activate the organizational network," said R.N. Sharma, Patna-based political analyst and head of the department of Sociology at Patna University.

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