The nomination for the first phase of polling in Bihar begins on October 1, yet there is no final word on seat-sharing formula between the parties in either the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) or the opposition ‘Grand Alliance’.
Voting for electing the 243-member Assembly will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7. The results will be announced on November 10.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) and its allies in the NDA, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are aiming to retain power in the state. The ruling coalition is being challenged by the Grand Alliance comprising the Tejashwi Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress and other smaller parties.
While the NDA is struggling to stitch up a seat-sharing formula with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) led by Chirag Paswan, the RJD and the Congress are yet to arrive at a mutually agreeable number of seats that the two parties will contest in the Grand Alliance.
LJP chief Chirag Paswan had a meeting with BJP national president JP Nadda in New Delhi on September 28. The two leaders agreed on LJP contesting 27 seats in the Bihar polls. “LJP will not be contesting more than 27 seats. What remains to be seen is how many seats will BJP and JD(U) contest,” said a leader who did not want to be named. Chirag, sources said, may push for at least 30 seats.
LJP has been at odds with CM Nitish Kumar over several issues including Kumar’s recent decision to join hands with former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi. There have been reports that LJP, which is part of NDA at the Centre, might as well contest polls alone. On September 7, the party authorised Chirag to take a final call. The party even decided to send a list of 143 probable candidates for final approval to the party’s Central Parliamentary Board. On September 11, party founder and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who is hospitalised, said he would back any decision taken by his son Chirag.
In the 2015 assembly polls, the JD(U) contested 101 seats and won 71 but as part of the Grand Alliance. The BJP won 53 seats. The LJP won just two seats of the 30 it contested. In the 2010 assembly polls, the JD(U) won 115 of the 141 seats it contested. BJP won 91 of the 102 seats it contested.
The Bihar Assembly elections will not only be India’s first such election to be held amid the coronavirus pandemic, but will also be the biggest global voting exercise to be conducted during the crisis. Phase one polling on October 28 will see voting for 71 assembly seats, phase two on November 3 for 94 seats, and the third and the final phase on November 7 will see polls for 78 seats.
Likewise, in the Grand Alliance, the RJD, the Congress, the Left parties and other smaller allies are yet to arrive at a consensus on the final seat-sharing numbers. Sources said that an official announcement will be made before October 1, when the nominations for first phase of polls begin. RJD, the senior partner in the alliance, is likely to contest 150 seats and offer 60 seats to the Congress.
“We want to contest 75 seats. We have conveyed it to them,” said a leader of the Congress. The party has not officially announced its stand yet.
So in a situation of RJD-Congress contest 210 seats (150+60) together, 20-25 seats will be allotted to the Left parties - CPI-ML(Liberation), CPI and CPM. Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP), led by Mukesh Sahni, may contest eight to 10 seats, as per the formula being worked upon within the Grand Alliance camp.
Pollsters said that unless the LJP decides to go with the Grand Alliance, which is very unlikely, the fight in Bihar Elections 2020 is one-sided, despite the declining popularity of incumbent chief minister.
“There seems to be no alternative to Nitish Kumar in Bihar. The Grand Alliance looks too weak to put up a fight,” Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies told MoneyControl.
The term of the 243-member incumbent assembly ends on November 29. Of the 243 seats, 38 are reserved for Schedules Castes and two for Scheduled Tribes. The three-phase polling will be held at 1,06,527 polling booths across 38 districts of Bihar, many of which were affected by floods recently. Bihar has 72 million registered voters, according to the Election Commission of India.
The 2015 assembly election in Bihar was held over five phases, with a 56.8 percent voter turnout, the highest for the state in the last 15 years.