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Bihar Assembly Elections 2020: Do or Die for Mahagathbandhan - April 16, 2020

With curtains felled on Delhi Assembly polls on February 11, all eyes are now be on Bihar elections, slated for October and November this year.

Though the Assembly poll is still seven months away, the ball will be set rolling in August-end itself with the Election Commission likely to announce the poll schedule in the last week of August, soon after the rainy season is over. Filing of nominations, scrutiny and withdrawal of names will take place in September while voting, in multiple phases, is likely to begin from the first week of October. The EC may have to keep festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and Chhath in mind before finalizing the dates for multiple phases of polling.

The Assembly election in Bihar assumes significance in the sense that the poll outcome will decide whether Nitish will become Chief Minister again (for the fourth time in a row) or the RJD , which emerged as the single largest party during the 2015 As Assembly polls, will stop the NDA in its tracks through Grand Alliance, also called Mahagatbandhan

The poll dynamics in Bihar changed midway in 2017 after Nitish, who won the 2015 Assembly elections in alliance with the RJD and the Congress, dumped the Mahagatbandhan (in July 2017) and joined hands with the same BJP which he had decisively decimated in a prestigious battle with Narendra Modi.

Though the Opposition has since then cried foul and charged Nitish with hijacking the mandate, much water has flown down the Ganga since 2015. The clean sweep by NDA during 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when it won 39 out of 40 parliamentary constituencies in Bihar, provides the clearest evidence that Nitish-Modi combination is a sure shot recipe for success in this part of the cow-belt. Besides, Amit Shah’s reiteration in February that “Bihar Assembly polls will be contested under the leadership of Nitish Kumar” also dispels numerous rumors floating around about the leadership issue in the State.

As of now, the Nitish-led NDA regime in Bihar is in an advantageous position as the JD (U), BJP and the LJP present themselves as a cohesive unit. Together, they command more than 40 per cent of the votes. On the other hand, Grand Alliance is neither Grand’ nor there is any proper alliance between its constituents – RJD, Congress, Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party), Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM (Hindustan Awam Morcha) and VIP (Vikasheeel Insaan Party) headed by Mukesh Sahni, who belongs to the numerically-strong Mallah (boatmen) community.

The master strategist of the Mahagatbandhan in 2015, Lalu Prasad, is cooling his heels in Ranchi, serving a jail sentence in the fodder scam. This has compounded the problem for the faction-ridden Mahagatbandhan. But then, if Lalu, later this year, is enlarged on bail (he has already been granted bail in all cases except one), the entire poll dynamics could eventually change.

The dynasty politics is creating issues for Laluprasad, he has faced same problem in previous Loksabha Elections also. He is facing his successor problem also.

Currently it looks one way match for NDA lead by Nitish Kumar. But Indian voters and politics is uncertain, need to take care for NDA to come back in Bihar.

Nitish has chances for breaking record to become continuously 4th time Chief minister.

- Prof. Mahesh Sane