Bihar: Advantage ‘Grand Alliance’ in Magadh

RJD-Congress-CPI(ML) combine giving up seats to smaller allies may turn the tide in favour of the Mahagathbandhan

Bihar: Advantage ‘Grand Alliance’ in Magadh

Farhana Kalam

In politics, two plus two does not always add up to four. It sometimes may add up to five or even six, quips Professor Ali Hussain who teaches Political Science to post-graduate students in Gaya. He was reacting to the RJD-Congress-CPI(ML) combine giving up seats to smaller allies.

Individually, Upendra Kushwaha, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahani may not make much of a difference to Bihar politics or even the electoral outcome. Mukesh Sahani is rightly regarded as a baby in Bihar politics, having floated a political party barely six months ago, and yet he walked away with three parliamentary seats.

The reason, Professor Hussain explains, is that the RJD boss knows that the incremental value of these leaders is much more than their individual strength. Political arithmetic says that the additions made by smaller castes to the once formidable M-Y(Muslim-Yadav) combination may deliver disproportionate electoral dividend.

‘Beti aur vote Jaat Ko’ (give daughter and vote to caste men) goes the saying in Bihar and more than anybody else, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the incarcerated RJD supremo, knows it well. That is possibly why uncharacteristically bending backward, the RJD went out of the way to placate allies and gave them seats disproportionate to their strength on the ground.

In any case, the Mahagatbandhan has little to lose in the four seats, viz Gaya, Aurangabad, Nawada and Jamui that go to polls in the first phase. In 2014, all the four seats were won by NDA candidates. Whereas BJP won Gaya, Aurangabad and Nawada, its ally LJP had won the Jamui seat. LJP crown prince Chirag Paswan is seeking re-election from the Jamui seat.

In the selection of candidates too, the Mahagatbandhan has played it smart by making it a backward-forward contest.

All these years, it has been a Rajput vs Rajput contest in Aurangabad and for that reason, Aurangabad is also called the Chittorgarh of Bihar. In 2014, two Rajput leaders, Nikhil Kumar of Congress and Sushil Singh of the BJP fought it out. The BJP candidate won the seat then.

This time, Upendra Verma, a Koeri leader and two-term MLC is challenging the sitting MP. Verma is the nominee of HAM(S) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.

According to poll observers, caste equation is tilted heavily in favour of the Mahagatbandhan in Aurangabad. Koeris, his own caste men, have a very sizeable presence in three Assembly segments of the Aurangabad parliamentary constituency, viz Imamganj, Gurua and Tikari. Besides that, the Mahagatbandhan candidate can bank upon the support of Yadavs and Muslims.

Being the candidate of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, the new face of Dalit politics in Bihar, the Mahagatbandhan candidate can rely on Dalits in general and Mushars (Jitan Manjhi’s castemen) in particular. The Dalits, in any case, are cut up with the NDA for its attempts to dilute the reservation policy, says SB Bhaskar, a left activist who has spent decades fighting for land rights of the Dalits in the Magadh region.

Much to the surprise of political pundits, Jitan Ram Manjhi, the Mahagathbandhan candidate for the Gaya reserved seat, may get support from the most unexpected quarters ie a section of the Hindutva voters. District VHP chief Mani Lal Barik has gone on record to praise the ex CM.

Barik said that on account of his personal rapport with BJP supporters, he may get sizeable votes that would otherwise have gone to the JD(U). Jitan Manjhi, in any case, contested the Assembly election in 2015 in alliance with the BJP.

Old timers recall that in the past too, Jitan Manjhi received tacit support of local BJP leaders. As the Congress candidate in 1991 parliamentary election, in order to defeat Lalu Yadav’s nominee Rajesh Kumar, BJP leaders had got their votes transferred to Congress candidate Jitan Manjhi with the result that the BJP and its earlier incarnation Jana Sangh which won the Gaya seat seven times between 1971 and 2014 and was runner up in four parliamentary elections, forfeited its security deposit in that election.

According to a section of BJP insiders, there is no harm in supporting Jitan Manjhi as he is deemed to be a floating leader, who would love to be on the right side of power in case Mahagatbandhan’s numbers fall short. Moreover, the Gaya seat has gone to the JD(U) and BJP leaders are wary of Nitish Kumar’s “conscience” that reacts unpredictably, they quip.

Therefore, as of now, it is advantage Mahagatbandhan in Gaya and Aurangabad.

The situation is somewhat hazy in Nawada and Jamui. In Nawada, two tainted men Surajbhan and Raj Ballabh Yadav are engaged in a proxy battle. It is Surajbhan’s brother Chandan Kumar vs Raj Ballabh’s wife Vibha Devi in Nawada.

Former Speaker Udai Narain Chaudhary would have given Chirag Paswan a run for his money in Jamui. But the Mahagatbandhan has nominated Budhev Chaudhary, a lightweight, to take on the LJP crown prince.

But in politics, who can ever tell?

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Published: 28 Mar 2019, 2:13 PM