Lok Sabha elections 2019: Vote transfer big challenge before Bihar Oppn alliance

As curtains come down on the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, a question mark remains on the transfer of votes among the constituents of the six-party grand alliance or the mahagathbandhan.

The coalition of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), Hindustan Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S), Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) may appear strong in terms of caste calculations but the key to their success would be their capacity to transfer votes.

While the RJD has considerable influence over Yadavs and Muslims, the RLSP of Upendra Kushwaha boasts of the support of Koeris, which come under Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

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Similarly, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM-S has sway over Musahars (Scheduled Caste) while the VIP of Mukesh Sahni alias ‘Son of Mallah’ counts the Nishad (fisherfolk and boatmen) OBC community as its core support base.

The Congress that claims to represent all sections of the society has been reduced to the political margins and piggybacks on other caste parties.

Congress leader Kishore Kumar Jha noted that Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits were once the traditional vote banks of his party but shifted their allegiance with the emergence of Mandal-Kamandal (Mandal refers to caste politics while Kamandal to the Ram temple movement) politics in the late 1980s.

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As per the 2011 Census, the Yadavs constitute 14.4% of Bihar’s 100-million population, Muslims 16.9%, and Dalits 16%. Musahars (mahadalits) account for 2.8% of the Dalit population while Koeris form 6.4% and Nishads 14% of the 51% OBC chunk of the population.

If votes do not get transferred to the constituents of the mahagathbandhan, the advantage will be with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal (United) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). While the BJP and the JD (U) are contesting 17 seats each, the LJP has fielded candidates for six.

Political observers say while mathematics is on the side of the grand alliance, cohesion, and chemistry is missing.

Shaibal Gupta, a founder member-secretary of Asian Development Research Institute in Patna, claimed the grand alliance was not working on the ground in view of “poor” ticket distribution and the lack of chemistry between the alliance partners. “It was supposed to be backward-centric coalition but that did not happen. Mathematics is on their side but they lack chemistry. There also seems to be a question mark on the transfer of votes,” he said.

But DM Diwakar of Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies said the transfer of votes was, by and large, happening on the ground given that the alliance has brought together different key castes in the state.

“Though the alliance is complete, there are some areas of concern especially in terms of candidate selection in some seats. The perception that it is not working on the ground is being propagated by the political rivals.”

Diwakar pointed to the complete transfer of votes between the RJD and the JD (U) in the 2015 assembly elections that resulted in the grand alliance winning 178 out of the 243 seats.

This was also possible due to a joint comprehensive campaign by the RJD and the JD (U) in 2015 and that level of aggression by the mahagathbandhan was not seen in 2019. But Jha said the alliance did overcome initial hiccups and gained momentum later. “It is true that there was not much of a joint campaign but let me tell you the Congress is going to perform very well,” he added.

The other reason for such perception, Jha said, was the delay in coming to an agreement on seat sharing as compared to the NDA.

After months of negotiations, the deal was finalised with the RJD contesting 19 seats, Congress 9, RLSP 5, HAM-S 3 and the CPI (ML) 1. HAM-S spokesperson Danish Rizwan said the supporters of his party vote because of Manjhi’s appeal. “In many places, the voters do not even know who is the candidates are. They go by the appeal of Manjhiji. So, there is no question our votes are not going to mahagathbandhan candidates,” he said.

RJD spokesperson Bhai Birendra said, “Our vote has always been transferable. Our supporters are aggressively voting for all the mahagathbandhan candidates.”

First Published:
May 19, 2019 06:43 IST

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