Alliance politics have taken centre stage in Bihar during the seventh and last phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.
Ahead of voting on Sunday for the Nalanda, Patna Sahib, Pataliputra, Arrah, Buxar, Sasaram, Karakat and Jahanabad Lok Sabha seats, the ruling NDA and the opposition Grand Alliance are busy consolidating their social support base or caste equations by giving more importance to alliance politics. It is not only a part of electoral strategy but also political compulsion on the ground.
In Sasaram, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Chedi Paswan is trying hard to ensure the support of its ally Janata Dal-United (JD-U) which contested the 2014 polls alone. With the Modi wave not visible in the constituency, Paswan is banking on the JD-U which secured over 93,000 votes last time.
“JD-U is strong among the EBCs and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s own castemen Kurmi. If Paswan succeeds in getting their support, he will be in a comfortable position,” Surendra Singh, a BJP supporter in Sasaram said.
Paswan has won from the seat thrice in 1989, 1991 and 2014.
Meanwhile Congress candidate Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha Speaker and daughter of legendary Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram, is banking heavily on support from the Grand Alliance.
“Meira is relying more on allies RJD’s Muslim-Yadav combination along with the RLSP’s Kushwaha votes, HAM’s Dalits and VIP’s Mallahs,” Congress worker Arjun Prasad said.
For Meira, Sasaram is a seat that was won nine times, a record, by her father. She herself won the seat twice in 2004 and 2009.
Though Sasaram is a reserved (SC) seat, the fight is tough for both Paswan and Meira. If Meira is playing her father’s legacy card, Paswan is playing the Modi card.
Similarly in Arrah, Union Minister and BJP candidate R.K. Singh is facing a tough electoral battle against his main rival, CPI-M) candidate Raju Yadav, who enjoys a strong cadre base of over one lakh votes and has a street fighter image among the poor and weaker sections.
Raju is also backed by the RJD and supported by the other allies of the Grand Alliance .
Singh belongs to the powerful upper Rajput caste, who have a sizeable population in Arrah along with the Brahmins and Bhumihars.
“For Singh, the JD-U support base is important this time as the RJD is backing the CPI-ML. Last time, the RJD secured nearly 2 lakh votes and Arrah is considered a stronghold of the party’a Muslim-Yadav base,” Kameshwar Tiwary, a BJP supporter said.
In Arrah, the battle is directly between the CPI-ML and the BJP. It has minimised the chance of a split in either pro-BJP or anti-BJP votes.
Unlike Sasaram, where the contest is between two Dalits, in Arrah it appears to be a fight between the upper and backward castes.
The BJP won the seat for the first time in 2014 thanks to the Modi wave, but it is not easy for it this time.
It was in 1989 that Rameshwar Prasad of the Indian People’s Front (IPF), an outfit of the CPI-ML, won the seat and surprised one and all.
After that the CPI-ML has not won the seat despite contesting the polls without a miss. In the 2004 general elections, CPI-ML veteran Ram Naresh Ram was the runner up.
In other constituencies going to the polls in this last round, Pataliputra, Patna Sahib, Karakat and Jehanabad to Buxar and Nalanda,dependency on allies is clear and it is not just a fight between the BJP versus the Congress or the RJD against the BJP or JD-U.