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Last Updated : Apr 02, 2019 04:26 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Opinion | NDA has a slight edge over the grand alliance. Will it be enough?

 The absence of the Left parties from the anti-BJP grand alliance means that votes in their pockets of influence will be divided, which will inevitably help the BJP.

Moneycontrol Contributor

Rajeev Sharma

With 40 Lok Sabha seats, Bihar is crucial for any political party that has a serious claim to form a government at the Centre. The stakes are higher for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance which won 31 and 32 Lok Sabha seats 40 in the 2014 and 2009 general elections, respectively.

Indeed, the BJP and allies need to further improve their 2014 tally if they want to see Narendra Modi retain power, though there doesn’t seem to be much scope for improvement. But that’s a tough task.

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One must not forget the important fact that the Janata Dal (United) and its leader Nitish Kumar were part of the LK Advani-choreographed NDA in 2009. The NDA had won 32 seats in Bihar after ensuring that Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, didn’t enter the northern state. It was thus entirely a Nitish Kumar show in 2009. Effectively, it means that this will be the first time that Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi fight the polls together and on the same platform.

One should not also forget how Kumar overnight dumped his RJD-Congress coalition partners, embraced a new partner, the BJP, and retained the chief ministership in July 2017. He could do this because the arithmetic of the 243-member Bihar assembly was favourable for such a switch-over: JDU (71), RJD (80), Congress (27) and BJP (53). There may well be a strong undercurrent among the voters of Bihar against the turncoat Kumar which, needless to say, will be exploited by the RJD-led grand coalition.

Yet, the NDA has a perfect pitch to bat and pull off a victory in the Bihar test match. It’s largely because of the fact that the opposition “mahagathbandhan" or grand alliance is like a boat with several holes.

One reason is that the RJD, the mother ship of the grand alliance,  is facing a revolt within, much like the Shiv Sena of Bal Thackeray's last days and the two main Dravidian parties -- DMK and AIADMK. Though Tejaswi Yadav has taken control of the RJD, his elder brother Tej Pratap has of late been on a path of revolt, upset over the party giving ticket to his estranged wife's father Chandrika Rai. Though Tej Pratap won't be able to do much, his revolt does trigger negative vibes about the party in public perception.

The RJD is contesting 20 seats, the Congress is fighting on nine, the RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party) five seats, Hindustani Awam Morcha (S) and Vikashsheel Insaan Party (VIP) are three seats each. One seat has been offered to CPI-ML (liberation), a major Left force in Bihar, from the RJD’s own quota. The two national Left parties—CPI and CPM—have been left out.

The 134-year-old Congress party is trying to piggy back on the RJD to stop the NDA juggernaut which decimated the non-BJP coalition in past two general elections. The Congress had first pitched for 16 seats, but it scaled down its demand to 13 seats and then to 11 seats.

Finally, the Congress agreed to just nine seats, while giving up its claim on the traditional Aurangabad seat (which Congress wanted to be allotted to its candidate Nikhil Kumar, a former governor) which has gone to HAM(S) led by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. The RJD-Congress deal also includes the first Rajya Sabha seat to Congress from Bihar whenever it falls vacant.

The RJD-Left parties deal breaker was over the Begusarai seat from where the CPI is fielding high-profile and controversial student leader Kanhaiya Kumar. The RJD wasn’t interested in backing the CPI’s candidate over its favoured contestant Tanveer Hasan who got almost 4 lakh votes despite the Modi wave in 2014, though he lost to BJP's Bhola Singh by a margin of over 55,000 votes. CPI's Rajendra Singh was a distant third with nearly 1.92 lakh votes.

The absence of the Left parties from the anti-BJP grand alliance means that votes in their pockets of influence will be divided, which will inevitably help the BJP.

Overall, the poll scenario in Bihar may offer a slight advantage to the NDA even if the opposition grand alliance seems well poised to deny the latter a free run. A similar situation seems to be prevailing in the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh as well where the BJP had won 71 of 80 Lok Sabha seats on its own steam, apart from two seats won by  ally Apna Dal. A below-par performance by Modi's BJP in Bihar and UP would only rock the BJP boat.

Rajeev Sharma is a political analyst and columnist who tweets @Kishkindha.

 
First Published on Apr 2, 2019 04:26 pm
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