PATNA/NEW DELHI :
The 17th Lok Sabha election results has changed the political dynamics in Bihar with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) getting a second wind in the run-up to the state assembly elections, which are around 15 months away.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won a landslide in the state. With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), JD(U) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) cornering 17, 16 and 6 seats respectively, the victory not only ensured the rout of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) but also regional caste based parties such as former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’ Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’ Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP). The other Mahagatbandhan or grand alliance partner Congress was able to win a lone seat in the state.
“If JD(U) hadn’t won these many seats, BJP would have been in the driving seat for the state assembly elections that are due soon. After this kind of win, Nitish Kumar will ask for an equal number of seats to contest as the BJP in the assembly polls," said Rakesh Ranjan, associate professor in the department of political science at Patna University.
Perhaps sensing the mood of the state’ electorate, NDA banners stating, “Raj tilak kee karo taiyyari, 2020 mein banegi sarkaar hamaari (get ready for royal coronation for in 2020 we will form the government)," were put across Patna once the results came out on 23 May.
This doesn’t bode well for the Mahagatbandhan in the state assembly polls given the way the chips are stacked against them. Not only did the BJP led NDA trump regional alliances, the conventional wisdom of the heartland state being won on the basis of caste arithmetic spouted ad nauseam was also turned on its head, marking a tectonic shift in Bihar’s politics.
The 17th Lok Sabha elections in Bihar were held in seven phases, with every possible caste configuration in play. However, BJP was able to get a vote share of 23.58%, JD(U) had a 21.81% share, followed by RJD with a 15.36% vote share. LJP had a 7.86% vote share, with Congress at 7.70% share.
Of the other backward classes (OBCs) and extremely backward castes (EBCs), which constitute around 51% of the population, around 14% are Yadavs, 4% are Kurmis and 8% Koeris. The Dalits and Mahadalits comprise 10% and 6%, respectively, with Muslims forming 17% of the population. The forward castes comprising Rajputs, Bhumihars, Brahmins and Kayasthas comprise 15% of the population.
“Caste based parties such as RLSP, HAM and VIP don’t have much future and will merge with larger parties," said Rakesh Ranjan.
The rumblings have already begun with RLSP’ two MLAs and one MLC joining JD (U).
In the 2015 Bihar assembly polls, BJP fought against a Congress-RJD-JD(U) combine and fared badly. In 2017, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar switched side to the BJP-led NDA ousting the Congress-RJD combine. In the 243 seats Bihar assembly, RJD is the largest party with 79 seats, followed by JD(U) (73 seats), BJP (55 seats) and Congress (27 seats).
“The BJP, JDU and the RJD are dominant players in Bihar’s politics and if any two of them come together, will have the heft of forming the next government in the state," added Rakesh Ranjan.
JD (U) has improved its performance from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls which were fought by the BJP, Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United) separately. This helped the BJP which had less than one third of the vote share (29.86%) win more than two-thirds of the seats it contested (22 out of 30). On the other hand, the RJD won just four seats with a 20.46% vote share and the JD(U) just two seats with a 16.04% share.
Given that state assembly polls in Bihar are likely to be held around November next year, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar held 174 rallies in the state of which eight were along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Nitish is as able as an administrator as he is a politician. He understands what is good governance," said a senior state government official requesting anonymity.
The impressive Narendra Modi led NDA’s performance at the hustings also brought down the curtains on the Lalu era. Lalu Prasad, RJD president and former chief minister, is now serving a jail sentence in Ranchi. The infighting within his family has added to the party’s woes. RJD contested 20 seats this election as part of the mahagathbandhan with the Congress, which contested nine seats.
This Lok Sabha win has set the stage for NDA to further improve its chances in the next assembly elections by focusing on the last mile delivery of promised schemes in areas such as infrastructure improvement.