Analysis | Tejashwi Yadav narrows gap as confusion plagues NDA

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.  

Barely a month back, the Bihar Assembly election seemed a walk over for the NDA comprising four allies — BJP, JD(U), Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Vikasheel Insaan Party.

However, as the campaign gained momentum just two weeks back, each day seems to see the opposition UPA, led by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, gaining round with a large turnout of voters at his poll meetings.

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Mr. Tejashwi Yadav, heir apparent of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and chief ministerial face of the party, may not be the first choice of the voters but he appears to be giving a tough challenge to the Nitish Kumar-led NDA, largely because of strong anti-incumbency wave across the State.

In parts of south and central Bihar, the mood of the voters reflected more an anti-Nitish Kumar sentiment than a pro-Tejashwi Yadav mood. Across castes and constituencies, people were vocal in their ire against the Chief Minister rather than rooting for the RJD leader.

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Despite the top BJP leadership reiterating its support from Mr. Kumar as the face of the NDA and the inclusion of all allies, , party workers at grassroots are confused and many disinterested in campaigning for non-BJP candidates.

In Dinara, Paliganj, Bikram and Sasaram constituencies, the local BJP workers were seen campaigning covertly for the rebel party candidates contesting the poll on the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ticket.

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This dovetails with LJP chief Chirag Paswan’s aggressive opposition to the Chief Minister, and his fielding candidates on 143 seats, mostly against JD(U) nominees. Though the BJP has been at pains to clarify that the LJP is not a part of the NDA in Bihar, at the Centre the party still is very much part of the NDA. This has led to confusion among grass root BJP workers on whether to support the official NDA candidate or the popular but rebel party leaders contesting on LJP ticket.

Even if the LJP doesn’t win more seats, it is likely to damage the JD(U). A weaker JD(U) will, for the first time, be forced to rely on the BJP in the State.

Also read | Tejashwi Yadav takes a swipe at Nitish

Another cause for worry for Mr. Nitish Kumar is that the Extremely Backward Castes (28-30% of the total population of the State) which he had, meticulously carved out from the OBCs to ensure that he stayed in power for last 15 years, also seem to be disenchanted with him.

The unhappiness stems from two reasons: first, corruption, mostly at lower levels of bureaucracy, police and officials implementing Mr. Kumar’s welfare projects like the Saat Nischay (seven resolves); second, prohibition which has done more damage than good to them unlike the claims of Mr. Kumar. Adding to their anger is Mr. Kumar’s recent “insensitive” handling of the issue of migrant workers forced to return home during lockdown.

Also read | Tejashwi Yadav’s apology for ‘mistakes’ of RJD regime fails to impress Bihar’s ruling NDA

However, voters’ ire is not against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and they are keen to have a BJP CM in the State for once. For that to happen, the BJP needs to get around 90-95 seats and the JD(U) at least 40.

The confused signals from the ruling alliance seem to be working in favour of 31-year-old Mr. Tejashwi Yadav, who is banking on the RJD’s solid M-Y (Muslims-Yadavs) vote of nearly 31%. This could win him around 70-75 seats. And with a little add on from alliance partners, the number for the UPA could go over 100.

UPA allies have also hit the ground with the Congress working hard on at least 40 out of the total 70 seats that it is contesting and among the three Left parties in the block, the CPI(M-L) appeared to be on strong footing in nearly 10 seats out of total 19 it is contesting. Besides, Mr. Yadav’s promise of 10 lakh government jobs now seems to be resonating among youths more than Nitish Kumar or, the State BJP leaders would care to admit.

The magic figure to form the government in Bihar Assembly is 123.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:26:12 PM |

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