The prospects of opportunist ‘party hoppers’ have undergone a sea change between last year’s parliamentary elections and the upcoming three-phase Bihar assembly polls.
Though they were left high and dry during the last parliamentary polls, they are spoilt for choice in the assembly elections.
The fast-changing political equations may be a challenge but consummate party hoppers are likely to take them in their stride amid the prospects of a hung 243-member Bihar legislative assembly, as suggested by some opinion polls.
The post-poll arithmetic may bring them under greater focus, if they manage to hold the key in the formation of the new state government.
Also read: How will the LJP factor play out in the Bihar Assembly Election 2020?
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which has broken ranks with the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar, has accommodated several party hoppers.
These turncoat new entrants will decide the political fate of LJP chief Chirag Paswan (37) following the death of his father Ram Vilas Paswan (74) last week.
A stellar performance by the LJP in the upcoming polls is likely to hurt the ruling Janata Dal (United), JD (U), the most.
But, opinion polls are suggesting that the main opposition, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), is likely to emerge as the biggest beneficiary, if there is a rise in the LJP’s electoral fortunes because of the emerging prospects of triangular or multi-corner contests.
“Perhaps, this explains the damage control mounted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as it has expelled rebel leaders and fresh attempts are being made to showcase the NDA unity. However, it is difficult to say whether the move will pay political dividends. If more leaders from the BJP join the LJP and the latter fields them as candidates, then the expulsions won’t have any impact. Even if these BJP rebel candidates lose, they may still end up splitting the votes in a significant manner. Electorally, the move may cut both ways,” said Professor Ajay Jha, a political analyst.
The LJP is not the only happy hunting ground for the turncoat politicians. The JD (U) has also inducted over a dozen sitting members of the Bihar legislative assembly and council (MLAs) and (MLCs), respectively, who have switched over from the rival RJD in the run up to the assembly elections. The party hoppers have been rewarded with seats of their choice.
Though the BJP has stuck to its own base, it has failed to rein in the rebels.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, former Bihar chief minister and the president of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) (HAM-S), has shifted his allegiance to the JD (U). And, Mukesh Sahni of the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) has sought electoral comfort under the BJP’s guidance.
Chandrika Rai, a six-time MLA from Parsa and the son of former Bihar CM Daroga Prasad Rai and a relative of RJD chief Lalu Prasad by a marriage between the two families, is a prized catch for the JD(U) after he jettisoned the RJD for the ruling party.
Rai’s daughter Aishwarya was married to Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap until it came apart in no time.
In 2005 and 2010 assembly polls, Rai had lost to the JD (U). But, in 2015, he had won, when the grand alliance (GA) or mahagathbandhan, of which the JD (U) was also an ally, albeit, briefly for two years, had proved too powerful for the NDA.
Another political heir, who has switched his allegiance for the RJD to the JD (U) is Faraz Fatmi, who is contesting from the Darbhanga rural constituency.
He had won from the Keoti assembly seat in 2015, but the BJP has put up its candidate this time in the constituency in line with the seat-sharing arrangement with the JD (U).
He is the son of former RJD Member of Parliament (MP) from Darbhanga, MAA Fatmi. He is pinning his hopes of emerging a winner, despite switching parties and a change of seat.
A similar situation prevails in Paliganj, where former RJD MP and Sher-e-Bihar Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav’s grandson Jayvardhan Yadav is also trying to record his second victory in a row after defecting from the RJD to the JD (U).
Teghra MLA Birendra Kumar, Gaighat legislator Maheshwar Prasad Yadav and Sasaram lawmaker Ashok Kumar Kushwaha are the other politicians, who have abandoned the RJD for the JD (U). All these turncoats have been suitably rewarded with seats of their choice.
Two Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) MLAs Lallan Paswan and Sudhanshu Sekhar have also got JD (U) tickets, though Patepur representative Prema Choudhary could not be accommodated because the seat went to the BJP.
However, Shyam Razak’s decision to leave the JD (U) for the RJD proved to be ill-timed, as he has been denied the Phulwarisharif seat following a seat-sharing arrangement within the GA.
A Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M) candidate is contesting from Phulwarisharif.
Former MP Lovely Anand, who had won the Lok Sabha poll from Vaishali in 1994, had joined the Congress in January 2019. But her electoral luck had proved elusive during last year’s parliamentary polls.
She has switched to the RJD and is reaping a dual benefit. She has been nominated on a RJD ticket from the Saharsa assembly seat, while her son Chetan Anand is the party’s candidate from Sheohar.
Former Bihar Congress president Ram Jatan Sinha had joined the JD (U) in February 2019 amid speculations that he might be fielded from Jehanabad in last year’s Lok Sabha elections.
However, that move came a cropper and the JD (U) also did not give him a ticket for the upcoming assembly polls. Soon, he resigned crying hoarse about the ill-treatment meted out to him by his adopted party.
Prominent BJP leaders such as Rajendra Singh, Rameshwar Chaurasia, Usha Vidyarthi, Ravindra Yadav have defected to the LJP. JD (U)’s Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha, too, made a beeline for the LJP.
All of them have got the seats of their choice and are pitted mostly against the JD (U) candidates than the GA nominees.
The BJP turncoats have launched an intense campaign and are seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite their expulsion from the party.
“This time, there is politics within politics. But the voters in Bihar are smart and once they make up their mind, it’s difficult to change that perception. It’s too close to call, whether JD (U) or the LJP wil emerge winner amid the rumblings within the NDA. Either way, the BJP is sitting pretty. However, the JD (U) has a lot to worry about. If the voters want to spring a surprise, then the GA may gain at the expense of the fight between the JD (U) and the LJP, much to the dismay of the NDA top brass. The LJP’s posturing and the death of veteran leader Ram Vilas Paswan may have considerable impact. However, the extent of the damage will only be known after the election results are declared on November 10,” said Professor NK Choudhary, a Patna-based political analyst.
Bihar goes to polls on October 28, November 3 and 7.
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