#BiharElections2020: Minor Parties, Major Game

Since Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM (Hindustani Awami Morcha) and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samta Dal) had quitted RJD (RashtriyaJanata Dal) led Mahagathbandhan (MGB) due to differences over seat-sharing and joined NDA (National Democratic Alliance), Bihar is witnessing every day new political story. BJP had questioned the credibility of HAM and RLSP based on their previous defection record. BJP leadership doesn’t seem in the mood to take any risk to potential (NDA led) government till 2025. According to Dainik Bhaskar’s report, Considering the concern of BJP, Nitish Kumar has offered five seats to RLSP and four to HAM but with a condition to contest the election on the symbol of JDU so that future break-up could be avoided.

Also, there is a war of words going on between LJP and JDU. Nitish Kumar’s JDU has even gone on to say that its alliance is with BJP in Bihar and not with Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP. LJP’s hard stance is seen as a pressure tactic to get more seats to contest. In a meeting, BJP’s JP Nadda offered 27 assembly seats with two MLC seats as per sources, but LJP supremo Chirag Paswan demanded 42 seats of his choice; otherwise, contesting alone will be the party’s best alternative. My take on the issue is that BJP may force LJP out of NDA like RLSP in 2019. Manjhi’s gharwapsi is also providing an indication.

On the other hand, RJD is struggling to save the entity of Mahagathbandhan. One by one, the leading complementary parties of Mahagathbandhan like HAM & RLSP and prominent leaders like Ashok Chaudhary from Congress, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and five MLCs from RJD, and many more has left with bitter notes. The main is said to be drastic change in political attitude of RJD’s leadership. Though, Tejashwi Yadav has come with a seat sharing formula where RDJ, Congress, Left Parties, VIP and rest Alliance Parties has been purposed to fight 146, 64, 22, 6 and 5 respectively.This seems hardly convincing as congress was expecting 70-75 seats and other parties may have also their concern, so it will be really fiscinating to see who stick with MGM till end and who become next HAM or RLSP! And also how these smaller parties are going to be game changer in upcoming Bihar Election!

Historically, smaller parties and independents have commanded 20%-25% vote share in assembly polls in Bihar. They have been a force to reckon with in Bihar politics. They played a key role in 1990 in installing Lalu as Chief Minister and in 2000 in installing Rabri at the helm.

In March 2005, smaller parties (including independents) won 37 seats, which led to a hung Assembly. President’s Rule was imposed for six months. In re-elections in October 2005, Nitish-led NDA (JDU+BJP) defeated Lalu’s RJD ending 15 years of jungleraj;others won 22 seats.

However, over the years, their influence is on the wane. In 2010, others won just eight seats and in 2015 just 12. One of the primary reasons is that smaller parties have been hopping alliances election after election and are seen as opportunists. RLSP, HAM and VIP were with NDA earlier (2015 VidhanSabha), then with MGB (2019 LokSabha) and again with NDA in 2020 except VIP. LJP was in an alliance with Left (2005), then RJD (2010) and BJP (2015) and still growing difference may led to end the party with someone else. 

Most of these smaller parties are caste-based parties, as shown below:

   Caste / Sub Caste                         Party     % of population

Source: http://www.politicalbaaba.com

While the leaders claim they are undisputed leaders of their communities, they are, in reality nothing without the support of either alliances. Manjhi is not the undisputed leader of Mahadalits, similarly neither Kushwaha nor Sahani.

Paswan, who is called as mausam-vaigyanik has always bet on the winning horse. He has been a central minister in all governments since 1999, Vajpayee’s, Manmohan Singh’s as well as Modi’s. However, it is clear from the table below that his party has lost support since 2005 Vidhan sabha elections. His support has almost halved.

It can be attributed to the masterstroke by Nitish, who carved a Mahadalit category (10%) out of the SC population (16%) to break into Paswan’s stronghold. In 2014, and 2019 general elections, his party’s performance has been propelled by the Modi factor.

LJP Performance over the years

     2004 LS     2005 VS   2009 LS  2010 VS    2014 LS    2015 VS   2019 LS
      Vote Share8.2%11.1%6.5%6.7%6.5%5.0%8.0%

Source: http://www.indiavotes.com

In 2015 Vidhansabha elections, BJP allotted 35% seats to allies totalling 86, however, they could win only 5, which converts into a strike rate of less than 6%. BJP won more than one-third of its contested seats. VIP party wasn’t formed at that time. However, Sahani was helicoptering along with Amit Shah in many rallies. BJP needed these allies as Nitish had left NDA and joined hands with Lalu and Congress.

2015 VidhanSabha Results (NDA)

Parties       Number of seats contested    Won     Vote share    Strike rate

With JDU back in NDA fold before LokSabha polls 2019, BJP forced out all these smaller parties except LJP, because of their poor track record and the fact that it couldn’t accommodate all of them. Nitish enjoyed better clout among Mahadalits, EBCs and Koeris than Manjhi, Sahaniand  Kushwaha.

These parties then hopped on to the MGB bandwagon. In the interest of putting up a united front, Tejaswi conceded too many seats to these parties, 12 out of 40. It contested less than half the seats. The result, smaller parties couldn’t even win a single seat. They could not transfer their votes to RJD and INC, leading to RJD scoring a naught, its worst performance in LokSabha elections since its formation.

2019 LokSabha Results (MGB)

Parties  Number of seats contested   Won   Vote share   Strike rate

Source: www.indiavotes.com

Stung by this shocking loss, Tejaswi seems to have learned his lesson.

JDU is insisting on a 50:50 formula similar to LokSabha polls. It is asking BJP to accommodate LJP from its quota, as Manjhi and Kushwaha to be allocated seats from JDU quota. It doesn’t leave much scope for Paswan’s party. Insiders say LJP could settle for nothing less than 30 odd seats; else, they will have no option but to leave NDA. However, their path won’t be easy. MGB is already packed with parties. It can’t get so many seats from RJD as well. It could then float a third front like in 2005 and form an alliance with the Left and other smaller parties and dent NDA’s prospects.

These smaller parties have pockets of influence in regions and among specific caste groups. Both NDA and MGB are trying to keep them in good humor and, at the same time, not repeating their past mistakes of over-estimating their prowess.

Party likely to win according to the caste preference –

VMR Bihar Opinion Poll
Caste wise Preference
Upper Caste Hindu44%5%26%16%
Upper Caste73%24%  
OBC48% 36% 
SC41% 47% 
Muslims  70% 

Source: www.tv9bharatvarsh.com

Preferred CM as per Gender & Age group –

Prashnam Substack (Poll)
CM Preference
 GenderAge Group
Tejeshwi Yadav38%39%39%40%33%
Nitish Kumar37%35%35%37%39%
 (1493 Voters- 56% male,  44% female in 216 Assembly)*
With Sushil Modi as an Option
 GenderAge Group
Tejeshwi Yadav34%35%36%36%33%
Nitish Kumar31%31%28%31%33%
Sushil Modi13%11%12%12%13%
(3235 Voters- 59%male, 41% female in 239 Assembly)*

Source: www.prashnam.substack.com


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