ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bihar: Shifting Alliances

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The sharp differences that have surfaced among the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners over seat-sharing in the forthcoming assembly polls in Bihar mark a major change in the political climate in the state, after the NDA’s successful performance in the state in the Lok Sabha election a few months ago. The howls of protest from the Samata Party and the Bihar People’s Party, two of the constituents of the NDA from the state, over the ‘final’ seat-sharing agreement reached by the NDA partners after the intercession of L K Advani leave no doubt that implementing the agreement and preventing internal sabotage in the election is not going to be easy.

In the Lok Sabha election itself the disunity among the NDA partners in Bihar was visible as Nitish Kumar, then representing Janata Dal(United), had launched a broadside against the BJP over the alleged raw deal meted out to the former in the allotment of seats. The defeats suffered by BJP candidates in the four Lok Sabha seats that went to the polls later in Bihar further confirmed that all was not well in the NDA camp. Now with the assembly election drawing close the clash of interests among the NDA partners, especially the Samata Party and the JD(U), who have the most at stake in Bihar and who incidentally had agreed to merge according to a scheduled plan have come to the fore. Suddenly awakened to the unfeasibility of their merger plan as it threatened to open a Pandora’s box on issues ranging from the prospective hierarchy in the new party to ticket distribution for the assembly election, the tension between the Samata Party and the JD(U) has affected the equation between the third alliance partner, the BJP, and Samata as well, with the latter accusing the former of siding with the JD(U) to undermine Samata’s influence in Bihar. The conflict between Samata and JD(U) should ordinarily have come as a boon to the BJP, but it has had the wider ramification of adversely affecting the poll prospects of the NDA as a whole, something to which the BJP cannot be indifferent. If, despite the seat-sharing formula, Samata and the JD(U) are going to battle it out in north and central Bihar, as seems very likely, it is Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), with its relatively strong base in these regions, that stands to gain, with its chances of coming back to power definitely enhanced.

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