Exit of smaller parties dented GA’s chances of regaining power in Bihar

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The exit of smaller parties such as Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) appears to have hurt Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led Grand Alliance’s chances of winning the Bihar elections.

HAM and VIP won four seats each and helped the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) reach the majority mark. The RLSP, which formed its own grouping, failed to bag any seat but secured 1.77% votes.

When HAM quit the Grand Alliance to join the NDA, a section of the Congress leaders pushed for a respectable seat-sharing deal with the RLSP and VIP. But a dominant section of the party agreed with RJD’s assessment that Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP party “added no value” to their alliance.

Kushwaha quit the Grand Alliance and formed the Grand Democratic Secular Front with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi, Jantantrik Party, and Samajwadi Janata Dal Democratic.

The AIMIM won five seats and the BSP one with a vote share of 1.24% and 1.49%.

VIP chief Mukesh Sahani left the Grand Alliance on October 3, the day RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav announced his alliance’s seat-sharing formula at a press conference. Congress got 70 seats and the Left 29. The RJD had promised to offer seats to the VIP from its quota of 144. An angry Sahani left the press conference midway and later joined the NDA.

Congress leaders familiar with the matter said the first section, including some top central functionaries, did not want Kushwaha and others to exit the alliance. The assessment among another section was that Manjhi, Kushwaha, and Sahani “did not bring any value addition” to the Grand Alliance and the votes of their parties were also not transferable as seen in the 2019 national polls.

Out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, only the Congress from the opposition grouping managed to win a seat. The NDA, comprising BJP, Janata Dal (United), and Lok Janashakti Party (LJP), won the remaining 39 seats.

“I am in regular touch with Kushwaha. He had left NDA when he was a minister. Why did he leave it? He did so because he had seen the NDA closely and had left it on principle,” Congress’s Bihar in-charge Shaktisinh Gohil had then said.

Kushwaha also opposed RJD’s move to name Tejashwi Yadav as the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance.

The Congress maintained it did not have any objection to Yadav as the chief ministerial face given that the RJD is the senior partner and has the discretion to name its candidate.

Both RJD and Congress were keen to include three Left parties – Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation– insisting that the move will make theirs a formidable alliance.

It was then argued that the Left parties with dedicated cadre-based voters have considerable influence in about 30-40 constituencies.

In the end, the three Left parties won 16 of the 29 seats they contested, registering a much better strike rate than the Congress.

Political analyst Professor Ajay Kumar Jha said the exit of RLSP, HAM, and VIP proved counter-productive for the Grand Alliance. “Had RJD persuaded Congress in accepting less number of seats, it would have been possible for Grand Alliance to retain these three parties.”

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