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Building up to Bihar polls

Building up to Bihar polls
Highlights

With growing perception that the Narendra Modi charisma can be challenged, and surfacing of the scandal over ‘favours’ shown to cricket administrator Lalit Modi, mood is building up for the crucial Bihar elections.

The opposition parties are trying to put up a united fight. This is not easy, given the individual and group ambitions. Since everyone seems to be converging on Bihar, it is, undoubtedly, the next political Kurukshetra

With growing perception that the Narendra Modi charisma can be challenged, and surfacing of the scandal over ‘favours’ shown to cricket administrator Lalit Modi, mood is building up for the crucial Bihar elections. At least three months away – due September-October – they are hogging attention because there was no major electoral battle this year. Bharatiya Janata Party’s humiliating defeat in the last one, in Delhi, makes Bihar all the more important.

L’affaire Lalit Modi has given the opposition in general, the issue it had been desperately awaiting while struggling to survive after the NDA ran away with the Lok Sabha polls. With daily disclosures, it promises to keep the BJP on the back-foot. The opposition parties are trying to put up a united fight. This is not easy, given the individual and group ambitions. Since everyone seems to be converging on Bihar, it is, undoubtedly, the next political Kurukshetra.

Among the likely newcomers could be the Bahujan Samaj Party. Its supremo Mayawati has announced that she would contest the Bihar polls “in full strength”. Not to be ignored is the Hyderabad-based Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) of the Owaisi brothers who made their plans known after scoring two hits in Maharashtra assembly polls. Both could pose a challenge to the anti-BJP phalanx by cutting into the ‘secular’ and Muslim vote.

The measure of their success would be to the BJP’s advantage as it tries hard to stay ahead of others. The Patna visits by party Chief Amit Shah with the pointsperson for Bihar, Ananth Kumar, indicate their intent. Helping the duo is former deputy chief minister Sushil Modi.

Whether Sushil will be the BJP’s Bihar mascot remains unclear. It named Narendra Modi for the Lok Sabha polls to great advantage, but Kiran Bedi’s nomination for Delhi was a disaster. The BJP is being challenged by the Janata Parivar to name its principal candidate. This may be too early in the day. The party is hoping to strike local alliances. One is with former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi whose claim to represent the “mahadalits” would be put to test.

The other, less likely tie-up, is with Pappu Yadav, once Lalu’s Man Friday. The most formidable stand-off is bound to be between the PM and his political adversary, Nitish Kumar. The BJP has to avenge the 2013 humiliation of being ejected from the Nitish-led coalition government. This would be Bihar’s battle-royal.

The prospects of the Congress joining the alliance may prompt the Left parties also to join the ‘secular’ fight against the BJP. Merged formally on April 16, the Janata Dal led by Uttar Pradesh patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has crossed one hurdle. Lalu Prasad has given in to his arch friend-turned-foe-turned-friend, Nitish.

The next challenge lies in fielding joint candidates. It is too early, since the alliance-making task is incomplete in both camps. The Indian political class is adept at wrangling for long and patching up at the last minute.

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