The results of the Assembly elections in three states have been a reality check for the Congress and the JD(U) in Bihar and eventually it has forced the Opposition parties to get united before the Lok Sabha election in 2024.
After the three meetings of the INDIA bloc in Patna, Bengaluru and Mumbai it was clear that the Congress party had an upper hand and leaders of other parties were thinking that it would dominate the seat sharing talks for the Lok Sabha elections. However, the losses in the three states have weakened the position of the grand old party.
For the JD(U) Nitish Kumar was expecting at least a post of convener of the INDIA bloc till the 2024 Lok Sabha election but his anti-women and anti-Dalit statements during the Winter Session of Bihar Assembly went against him and he returned with empty hands from the fourth meeting held in New Delhi on December 19.
There is a general perception that Nitish Kumar changes his goal post according to situations but it is too late for him this time and he has to stay with the INDIA bloc at least till the Lok Sabha elections.
This is actually an ideal situation for the JD(U) and the Congress party to go with the ‘one seat, one candidate’ formula in Bihar to challenge the BJP.
“The meeting of the INDIA bloc in New Delhi was successful and we will finalise the seat sharing formula within three weeks across all states. The work is in progress and we will select candidates who are capable of defeating the BJP in the Lok Sabha election 2024,” said Lalan Singh, JD(U) National President.
“BJP leaders are saying that the INDIA bloc has not proposed the name of Nitish Kumar as a prime ministerial candidate, I want to ask the BJP that did Nitish Kumar tell you that he is a prime ministerial candidate. They talk without any base,” Singh said.
However, as it is clear to observers that Nitish Kumar still believes that he did not get the desired result from the fourth meeting of the INDIA bloc, he will do hard bargaining with the RJD and the Congress.
Sources said that Congress senior leader Rahul Gandhi talked to Nitish Kumar over the phone after the fourth meeting of the INDIA bloc but the contents of the conversation were not revealed.
However, the general perception is that he tried to convince Nitish Kumar to fight the election with full vigour like he did in the 2015 Assembly election.
Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats and the JD(U) and RJD will contest on the maximum seats in Bihar.
The leaders of the JD(U) and RJD have not said anything but sources say that the JD(U) wants 17 to 18 seats in Bihar and the RJD leaders are thinking the same way. The leaders of these two parties may go for the formula of the 2015 Assembly elections when they had contested on 100 seats each and the remaining 43 seats were given to the Congress party.
This time they want to contest 17 to 18 seats each and give the remaining six or four seats to the Congress and Left parties.
There is also a possibility that the JD(U) who has 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha might agree for 16 seats and the RJD will get 16 and the remaining eight seats will be distributed among Congress and the Left parties.
Bihar has three political forces, i.e. the RJD, JD(U) and the BJP and everyone knows that whenever two forces are on one side they win the election unless anyone underperforms or bats for the BJP just like the LJP did in the 2020 Assembly election in Bihar.
The Mahagathbandhan easily defeated the BJP in the 2015 Assembly election when the JD(U) and the RJD were alliance partners along with the Congress party. At that time, the Modi wave was much stronger than now. Similarly when the JD(U) and the BJP were together in the 2020 Assembly elections, they won it convincingly. The Lok Sabha election of 2019 was also an example of it when the JD(U) and the BJP contested together along with the LJP and won 39 out of 40 seats of Bihar.
Though the morale of the saffron brigade is high after the thumping victory in the three Assembly elections, it needs to be cautious ahead of 2024, especially in Bihar.
The BJP always loves to find gaps in the Opposition camp to create confusion and if the RJD and the JD(U) will fight together like they did in the 2015 Assembly election, the BJP might struggle here.
The BJP is raking up the issue of rising crimes and hooch tragedies due to the failure of the liquor ban in dry Bihar and is saying that Jungle Raj has returned to the state under Nitish Kumar.
“Under the rule of Nitish Kumar, not only the common man but the cops are also in the target zone of criminals. The murder of an ASI in Begusarai is a prime example of this as the liquor mafia mowed him down on duty,” said Bihar BJP president.
However, in an under-developed state like Bihar, caste factor is the only thing that voters keep in mind during any election and other issues like jobs, industrialisation, farmers and other problems are secondary.
This is the reason why the RJD is in a comfortable zone as everyone knows that Lalu Prasad and Tejashwi Yadav will fight against the BJP at any cost.
Lalu Prasad never compromised with the BJP and RSS in his entire political career and this could be the reason why Muslims and Yadavs, who have higher number of votes as per the recently-concluded caste survey (Muslim 17.7 per cent and Yadavs 14 per cent) in Bihar, will vote decisively for the RJD. If the Koiri having 4.21 per cent and Kurmis having 2.87 per cent voters (Lav-Kush) in Bihar, will join hands then the BJP can easily be defeated.