It Is Party-Hopping Time In Bihar

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This reemphasises the fact that Nitish Kumar continues to be the only option acceptable to all sections of the society in Bihar

RAHUL VATSA

LEADERS changing sides before the elections is not an unusual scenario in India. In general, such crossovers are by the leaders who miss to get the candidature of their respective parties and are out of the fear to miss the bus. Therefore, trying to read much out of it may not give any useful insight. But, if there are movements across parties or alliances much before the candidate selection process of the political parties starts, it cannot be taken just as an effort to ensure to be in the electoral fray through one or the other

party. It may be much more than that, and if we try to read it carefully, it may give some indications of any possible change in the political landscape of the constituency. After all, politics – no one knows – better than the politicians themselves.

In Bihar, the assembly election is approaching; at this point even the seat-sharing discussions are not closed in the two alliances. And already some leaders have changed sides – from the Mahagathbandhan to the NDA or the other way.

The recent crossovers from the Mahagathbandhan to the NDA are: Chandrika Rai, Jaivardhan Yadav, Faraz Fatmi, Maheshwar Prasad Yadav, Prema Chaudhary, Dr Ashok Kumar and Uday Narayan Rai alias Bhola Rai from the RJD to the Janata Dal-United.

Purnima Yadav and Sudarshan Kumar from the Congress to the JD-U. On the other side, Shyam Rajak has moved from the JD-U to the RJD.

A majority of the leaders who have changed sides are either Yadav, Muslim or from the upper castes or/and have high number of electorates from one of these social groups in their respective assembly constituencies. Let us try to see if the recent crossovers are giving some indication for the important three political constituencies in Bihar – 14 per cent of Yadav, Muslims (16 per cent) and upper castes (16 per cent).

Shyam Rajak has won election from Phulwari Sharif (an SC reserved constituency) six out of seven times in the last 25 years. For quite some time, there was a lot of talk about he being not happy in the JD-U, but the real concern here seems to be the fact that more than 50 per cent electorate in Phulwari Sharif are Muslims, and there is a general feeling in the state and in Phulwari Sharif that this time Muslims may consolidate against the NDA and in favour of the Mahagathbandhan. After winning election from Phulwari Sharif for three consecutive terms as a RJD candidate, he switched side and joined the JD-U in 2009, won the next two elections in Phulwari Sharif on the JDU ticket and now is back in the RJD.

His switching loyalty from the RJD to the JD-U and then back to the RJD  coincides with the growing connection of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with the Muslims in the state while being in power in the state and a possible disconnect in the last couple of years.

But then there are leaders like Faraz Fatmi who has crossed over from the RJD to the JD-U. His father has been Member of Parliament for four times from Darbhanga and definitely has some influence among the Muslims in his area. His exit from the RJD was expected as his father had moved out of the RJD in 2019 and is currently with the JD-U. The father-son duo choosing the JD-U to be with indicates that even though the Muslims are up against the BJP and the NDA in Bihar, the JD-U is still a distant second choice for them in the assembly polls.

Several Yadav leaders have crossed over from the RJD to the JD-U. It includes Chandrika Rai, RJD MLA of Parsa. He is son of late Daroga Prasad Rai, the first Yadav chief minister of Bihar, and in that capacity he has the respect of the Yadav in Bihar. Parsa has been Chandrika Rai’s family seat; Daroga Prasad Rai had got elected several times from this constituency in the past. After the demise of Daroga Prasad Rai in 1981, Chandrika Rai got involved in electoral politics and since then he has been elected six out of eight times from Parsa.

Jaivardhan Yadav, the RJD MLA from the Paliganj assembly constituency, is a grandson of once the tallest Yadav leader of Bihar, late Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav, who was fondly called as Sher-e-Bihar. Bhola Rai was a senior leader of the RJD and a former  MLA of Raghopur; he was a long time loyal of the Lalu Prasad family and had vacated this seat for Lalu Prasad in 1995 and from then onwards, Raghopur has been the RJD’s first family constituency and Bhola Rai as the representative of the family had always led the party at ground and had contributed in the victory of the family in Raghopur (except for  the 2010 polls when Rabri Devi had lost here, RJD’s first family has never lost election here). 

Maheshwar Prasad Yadav, RJD MLA of Gaighat had been the face of the RJD in Gaighat. He has been elected five out of seven times in the last 30 years from Gaighat.

All these leaders are not having pan-Bihar influence on Yadav voters, but they are definitely having strong influence on Yadavs in their own assembly constituencies. Their decisions to change sides indicate that they have the confidence to retain the support of the Yadav in their seats even without being on the side of the RJD and Lalu Prasad. This further indicates that Lalu Prasad and his party have no more monopoly on the Yadav voters in Bihar.

Over time, multiple Yadav leaders from within the RJD and from other parties have emerged as dominant Yadav satraps in different assembly segments and have been successful in building considerable support base among the local Yadavs.

Sudarshan Kumar, MLA of Barbigha is grandson of late Rajo Singh, who was a dominant Congress leader and had a lot of influence especially among the upper-caste Bhumihar in Barbigha and adjoining areas in the Sheikhpura district. Sudarshan is trying to get into the legacy of his grandfather and father late Sanjay Singh. His changing side indicates that for the 2020 assembly elections the upper-castes electorates may consolidate in favour of the NDA and may not vote even for favorable candidates of the Mahagathbandhan.

Apart from giving some indications of possible mood of the three important constituencies – Yadav, Muslims and the upper castes – there is one more aspect of these crossovers. All these leaders who have left the RJD or the Congress have joined the JD-U and not the BJP or the LJP. This reemphasises the fact that Nitish Kumar continues to be the only option acceptable to all sections of the society in Bihar, and probably so is as a safe bet for the politicians and for the people of Bihar for the 2020 assembly election. IANS