Elections to all 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar will take place from 11 April onwards. All eyes are on the state, where the political situation, especially the state of alliances, has changed drastically since the general elections in 2014. Mint takes a look.
Why is the spotlight in Bihar on alliances?
Bihar is a test case as it is one of the largest states where a rainbow alliance of opposition parties is taking on the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Over the last five years, alliances in Bihar have changed at least thrice. Now, almost all the key opposition parties are part of the mahagathbandhan or grand alliance. This has significantly altered the electoral dynamics of the state. With the alliances changing so many times since the elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014, it would also be interesting to see if there is vote transfer between the new alliance partners in the state.
Why is the state crucial to BJP’s poll plan?
In October 2013, Narendra Modi had launched BJP’s general election campaign from a rally in Patna, highlighting the significance of the state. When the results came out in May 2014, the splintered opposition faced a humiliating defeat, as the BJP-led NDA swept the state winning more than three fourths of the Lok Sabha seats. However, just a year later, NDA suffered a drubbing in the assembly polls. With BJP back in the state’s ruling coalition now, the stakes are high for the party, as the Lok Sabha elections are not only a fight for prestige, but also one to retain a traditional stronghold.
What are the key issues?
Rural distress, unemployment, granting of special status to the state, the need for infrastructure development and the poor law and order situation continue to be the key poll issues in the state.
How will the caste arithmetic play out?
Both NDA and the grand alliance have been careful with the caste arithmetic. BJP’s candidate list focuses on upper castes and other backward classes. The Janata Dal (United) draws support from extremely backward classes and the Kurmi-Koeri combine, while the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has the Paswan base among scheduled castes. The grand alliance draws support from Yadavs and Muslims. The Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party could make a dent in the upper caste and Kurmi-Koeri support base of NDA.
Why are the Lok Sabha polls this time crucial for regional satraps?
Assembly polls in Bihar are likely to be held within 18 months after the Lok Sabha elections. The general elections may, therefore, offer a peek into who holds the key to the next government in the state. The Lok Sabha polls could thus decide the political fate of regional satraps, most of whom are passing on power to the next generation of leadership. This includes Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, LJP chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.