Patna, Oct 1 (IANS): With 40 Lok Sabha seats, Bihar will be a crucial battleground for the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 polls.
Also important is that the BJP is not in power in the state and its opponents are RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav and JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar, who command major influence in this state. To counter these two forces, the small "vote-cutter" parties of the 2020 Assembly elections have been made alliance partners of the BJP in the state.
The strength of the Lalu-Nitish combination in Bihar was proved in 2015 when their win halted the Narendra Modi winning streak.
With the2024Lok Sabha elections near, Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar are once again on one side and theBJPis their opponent.
Since the BJPis not in position to challenge the combined force of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, hence it is looking at smaller parties in Bihar like Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party Ram Vilash (LJPR), Pasupati Kumar Paras-led Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP), Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal (RLJD) and Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S). These leaders have joined the NDA while Mukesh Sahani-led Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) is yet to decide on which way to go.
These leaders are representing a section of voters from their own castes and communities but can they shift their voters in favour ofBJPis the question bothering thesaffron party.
The real strength of these parties can be judged from their performance in the Assembly elections when none of them were capable of reaching double digits in the last three polls. The LJP in the 2010 Assembly election won just three seats, four in 2015 and one in 2020. Jitan Ram Manjhi-led HAM had only four seats in the 2020 Assembly election and Upendra Kushwaha zero. They were successful in the Lok Sabha election in 2014 and 2019 but the votes were obtained in thename of Narendra Modi.
Hence in the2024Lok Sabha election whenBJPbadly needsalliancepartnersin Bihar, they are the only options for the saffron party.
In Bihar, 16 per cent voters belong to Dalit and Mahadalit communities andBJPis eyeing this big chunk through leaders like Jitan Ram Manjhi, Chirag Paswan and Pasupati Kumar Paras.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, the Mahadalit leader of Bihar belongs to Musahar caste which is around 3 per cent, especially in Gaya, Jahanabad, Purnea, Khagaria and Arwal districts. Manjhi started his political career in 1980 but the turning point came in 2014 when Nitish Kumar resigned from the post of chief minister and gave the post to Manjhi. At that time, Nitish Kumar was thinking that Jitan Ram Manjhi would be a low profile leader who would keep the Kurmi, Koiri (Lav-Kush), Dalit and Mahadalit inatct in favour of JD(U), but within two months, he started ignoring Nitish Kumar.
In the 2020 Assembly election, Jitan ram Manjhi was part of NDA and contested on 7 seats under the quota of JD(U). He gave an impressive performance by winning 4 seats. When NItish Kumar separated from NDA in August 2022, Jitan Ram Manjhi also moved out with him and formed the government with Mahagathbandhan.
But, Jitan Ram Manjhi has abandoned the Mahagathbandhan ship andBJPis eyeing the 3 per cent Mahadalit votes of Musahar caste.
Chirag Paswan is the most influential leader in Bihar for the BJP. He is holding the political legacy of his late father Ram Vilash Paswan. He represents Dusadh (Paswan) caste in Bihar having around 6 per cent voters across the state. Besides, other Dalit castes also support Chirag Paswan. He has proved his popularity during bypolls of Mukama, Gopalganj and Kurhani when he turned out to be a crowd puller leader forBJPand helped it to gain victory in Gopalganj seat.
In the Lok Sabha election 2019, the partyunder the leadership of Ram Vilash Paswan contested six seats. He had given 100 per cent results at that time and won all six. However, the political situation of 2019 was different as the Modi wave continued in the country, especially in the Hindi belt. The situation, however, has changed ahead of the2024 pollsas the Narendra Modi government is facing anti-incumbency.
After understanding the importance of the vote-cutters, the opposition leaders have come together under the INDIA bloc. The vote-cutters of 2020 Assembly elections have now turned outaspartnersof theBJPin2024which meansBJPhas to give seats from its own quota and will challenge the candidates of INDIA bloc one to one.
The political situation of Chirag Paswan changed in the 2020 Assembly poll after the demise of his father Ram Vilash Paswan. Moreover, his party LJP was also split in 2021 and a big chunk of 5 MPs went with his uncle Pasupati Kumar Paras. In the 2020 Assembly election too, the LJP performed miserably with only one seat and the lone MLA named Raj Kumar joined the JD(U).
In the2024Lok Sabha poll, Chirag Paswan got the votes of his caste but Pasupati Kumar Paras cannot be ignored. He may take away one or two per cent votes out of total 6 per cent Paswan votes in the state.
BJPis trying to keep both Chirag and Paras together but they have not united officially now.
Upendra Kushwaha, is a prominent leader in Kushwaha (Koiri) community having around 7 per cent voters in Bihar. After the separation from JD(U),BJPis eyeing to hurt the Lav-Kush equation of Nitish Kumar and Upendra Kushwaha may play a crucial role in it.
Kushwaha community has 7 per cent voters and its numbers are higher than Kurmi, whose biggest leader is Nitish Kumar. Kushwaha community has sizable population in districts like Rohtas, Kaimur, Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Khagaria,, Nalanda, Munger, Samastipur, West Champaran and East Champaran.
Upendra Kushwaha waselectedfirst timefrom Jandaha in Vaishali district in 2000 and soon became the trusted person for Nitish Kumar. In 2004, Samata Party merged into JD(U) and Nitish Kumar made him the leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly. However, Kushwaha's over ambitious nature turned out to be a reason for souring his relationship with Nitish Kumar. In 2007, he separated from JD(U) and formed the Rashtriya Samata Party in 2009. As he lost the Lok Sabha election badly, he returned to Nitish Kumar who sent him to Rajya Sabha.
In 2013, he had a dispute with Nitish Kumar over seat distribution and he left JD(U). He formed Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and went with NDA. In 2014 during the Modi wave, NDA had given three seats of Lok Sabha and he won all three seats, including himself. He became the minister of state for human resources till 2017. At that time, Nitish Kumar separated from the Mahagathbandhan and joined the NDA. Upendra Kushwaha objected to thisand he resigned from the ministry.
He joined Mahagathbandhanahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll but lost from Karakat and Ujiyarpur.
In the Assembly election, he formed analliancewith AIMIM and BSP. He was the CM face of thealliancebut his party performed badly and lost all seats. He himself lost the Assembly poll in 2020.
Karakat is considered as a constituency where Kushwaha voters are in large numbers. In 2019, Upendra Kushwaha lost the election to JD(U) Mahabali Singh.
Mukesh Sahani is a leader who established himself as the “Son of Mallah” (Fishermen community) having titles like Sahani and Nishadh in Bihar. He has not opened his card so far but lately showed inclination towards INDIA bloc. Mukesh Sahani-led Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) is the youngest political party in Bihar having an experience of just two elections.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, his party failed to win a single seat while in 2020, he shifted his goal post from Mahagathbandhan to NDA at the last moment andBJPgave him 11 seats from his own quota. Out of 11 seats, his party VIP managed to win four seats. In that election,BJPsmartly gave 11 seats to VIP to get votes of Mallah. four MLAs who were part ofBJPin the past won the poll and three of them later joinedBJP.
Overall, the track record of Chirag Paswan, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Pasupati Kumar Paras, Upendra Kushwaha and Mukesh Sahani are such that when their leadingpartnersdo well, they also perform well. In the 2014 and 2019 and 2020 Assembly elections,BJPwas in the driver 's seat and had pulled the ships of Ram Vilash Paswan, Upendra Kushwaha, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahani.
It will be interesting to see how theywould help theBJPin2024,especially when their opponent is INDIA bloc with Nitish- Lalu on one side.