Nitish may regain mandate
Bahubalis prop up wives;
leaders launch sons
By the time November pales into history, Bihar will have a new government to steer the state for the next five years. The turn-out of electorate in the first three out of six-round elections has been good. There is little doubt about Nitish Kumar re-wearing the crown. The moot question, however, is that will the NDA need Independent props to remain in the saddle?
According to the Election Commission’s observation, of the 243 assembly constituencies, 47 are in 33 Maoist-affected districts. The EC has decided to deploy CPMF and hold polling between 7 am and 3 pm in these areas. Handwritten posters have started coming up in the remote areas in Magadh and Khagaria-Jamui regions.
Three unique features of this election have been that almost all major political parties felt no qualms of conscience in fielding people with criminal records or their spouses, albeit they had vowed to the contrary. And, secondly all of them faced rebellion and their official nominees encountered stiff opposition to the extent of losing the battle at the hustings. Thirdly, the voting in the first three phases has remained peaceful, an unheard of thing.
Blood-letting has been a regular feature in the past assembly elections. Some bahubalis (muscle men) have also thrown hats in the ring on their own. Though Nitish Kumar government reserved 50 per cent seats for women in gram panchayats and other civic bodies, no political party thought of giving even 30 per cent nominations to the fair sex.
Congress candidate Lovely Anand, the wife of former MP Anand Mohan, a criminal-turned-politician who is in jail, is facing a difficult battle in Alamnagar constituency. Anand Mohan has been awarded life imprisonment for inciting a mob that lynched Gopalganj district magistrate G. Krishnaiyah in 1994.
Another Congress candidate, Ranjeet Ranjan, is the wife of former MP and murder convict Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav. Bima Bharti, wife of Awadesh Mandal, is seeking re-election on JD-U ticket. Bharti’s husband is considered a symbol of terror in the Khagaria region. Punam Devi, wife of criminal-turned-politician Ranvir Yadav, is seeking re-election from Khagaria constituency. Her main rival is Sushila Devi Yadav of the LJP.
Former legislator Lesi Singh, wife of slain ganglord Butan Singh, is contesting from Dhamdaha constituency. The BJP’s Damyanti Devi, the wife of notorious criminal Bhagar Yadav, is in the fray from Narpatganj constituency. Annu Shukhla, wife of JD-U legislator Munna Shukhla, who is currently in jail in the murder of former Bihar minister Brijbihari Prasad, is the JD-U candidate from Lalganj constituency.
This indicates that muscle power still rules the roost and winnability weighed heavily with all political parties, including RJD-LJP combine. According to a survey conducted by National Election Watch, 44 per cent candidates contesting the election have criminal backgrounds. One bright spot of electioneering this time is that ‘development and growth’ has emerged as the main poll issue. Rampant corruption, for which NDA rule is frequently accused of, has been pushed to the back yard. No party talked of this scourge in their campaign. Even the Congress party made oblique reference to corruption.
The electorate kept almost all political parties guessing about their support. Neither NDA nor RJD-LJP combine could remain confident about their win. Even the Congress could not make the expected dent. At best this party could play the Votekatawa (vote splitter) role. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, who has been roaring in the past elections, is somewhat subdued. LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan has been apologetic in his campaigning. Nitish Kumar remained hard put in denying accusations by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi about misusing or not utilising the Central funds. Frequent hiccups nagged the BJP all through the campaign. The court verdict on Ayodhya issue could not become a poll issue. The NDA star campaigners, however, are trying their best to woo minorities and upper caste voters by offering reservation sop to them. Lalu Prasad too promised quota to upper castes and rule by backwards.
The 2010 Vidhan Sabha elections also saw perpetuation of dynasty rule in Bihar also. Lalu Prasad, who never lost any opportunity in the past to accuse the Indira Gandhi family of dynasty rule, launched his cricketer son Tejaswi and his ally Ramvilas Paswan brought in his film actor son Chirag. Though Bihar BJP president Dr. C P Thakur could not procure a party ticket for his son, Vivek, he has been launched in politics. RJD loyalist Jagadand Singh also launched his son Sudhakar, albeit through JD-U. Many MPs also secured respective party tickets for their wives, sons-daughters and other kin.
Together with dissidence on an unheard of scale the delimitation of constituencies has changed traditional equations. This may have big impact in at least 40 per cent seats. Despite this Muslims are considered a decisive factor in 60 constituencies and can make or mar the results of another 40 constituencies.
The traditional equations have been changing, with Nitish Kumar leading the Kurmi-Koeri groups and riding piggyback on the BJP to make enter the upper-caste vote bank. Kumar has gone all out to court numerically superior EBCs and Muslims and circumvent caste factors by recognising women as a separate political constituency.
Now, what is bothering one and all is dissidence on an unheard of scale this time.
Though opinion polls paint a rosy picture for NDA, nothing concrete could be said at this juncture. The arithmetic in Bihar has never been more complex. Moreover, electorate keep cards close to their chests.