Monday, August 30, 2010

Bihar to go for a four-phase Assembly poll?

Bihar will go for a four-phase Assembly poll beginning shortly after Durga Puja on October 17 and will conclude before mid-November, 2010. The Election Commission is likely to formally announce the dates shortly.

Bihar is the only state to go to the polls this year. This means security forces will not be in short supply especially for central and south Bihar which is naxal-affected.

It appears that Lalu Prasad Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)is promising the repeat of his exemplary performance of his rule during 15 years from 1990 to 2005. The way he has made an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and wooed Prabhunath Singh, former Janata Dal (U) MP, his arch rival and Rajput leader from the Saran belt in north Bihar is surely an attempt to broaden his own electoral base.

Of the 243 assembly seats, RJD is fighting for 168 seats and LJP is fighting for 75 seats. Paswan has announced Lalu as the alliance's chief ministerial candidate and his brother and party president Pashupati Kumar Paras as deputy chief minister.

It appears that Rabri Devi, Chief Minister of Bihar for 8 years and subsequently Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Vidhan Sabha for 56 months has returned to the kitchen.

JD(U) had in 2005 contested from 138 of the 243 seats, leaving 103 seats to BJP. The two had a friendly fight in two other constituencies. JD(U) is claiming for more seats, including Digha and Kumhrar in Patna Lok Sabha constituencies. Nitish Kumar is thinking of contesting from Digha assembly constituency in Patna. In Seemanchal too JD(U) is keen to field more candidates after the entry of Md Taslimuddin who can influence the Muslims in Kishanganj, Araria and Katihar.

Even as Sonia Gandhi is all set for a 4th term as the President of Indian National Congress, her party is attempting to re-establish itself in Bihar during the upcoming elections under Ali Mehboob Kaiser, its Bihar state unit President. The party has been out of power in Bihar since 1989. The party's state unit is expected to submit its recommendations of candidates for the 243-member Bihar assembly by September 5. The screening committee will give its recommendations to the party's central election committee, headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, which will make the final selections. Apart from Hariprasad, the screening committee includes Mukul Wasnik, a Dalit leader, C.P. Joshi, Ali Kaiser and Congress legislative party leader Ashok Kumar Ram. The Congress had earlier appointed observers for each district of the state to give an assessment of the party's prospects on each seat.

Corporate media is only reporting about the big fronts of RJD-LJP and JDU-BJP and Indian National Congress.

It has disregarded a third front around left parties and old socialists which is struggling to emerge a significant force.

On August 24, Ram Awadesh Singh, former MP and member, National Backward Classes Commission issued a Press Release claiming that all socialist and left parties will adopt an alternative common programme before the elections for the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. In this regard several round of talks have taken place with like minded parties including left parties to repeat the performance of 1967 and 1977. Singh is the only ex.M.P.who refused former M.P. pension. He is a socialist leader and an ardent follower of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia.

All the Left parties like the Communist Party Of India (Marxist) (CPM), Communist Party Of India (CPI), Communist Party Of India (Marxist-Leninist)[CPI(ML)], Forward Bloc and the RSP will contest the Bihar Assembly polls unitedly. Left parties would contest some 200 seats out of 243 assembly seats. CPI-ML is contesting some 100 seats. CPI will contest some 60 seats. It has already chosen candidates for 34 seats. It has denied tickets to two of its current MLAs Rajendra Prasad Singh of Barauni (replacing him is Ram Ratan Singh) and Ram Vinod Paswan of Bakhari (replacing him is Suryadev Paswan). CPM has decided to contest 35 seats.

Left parties would launch a statewide land liberation struggle for the distribution of an acre of agricultural land and 10 decimal (over 3 Katthas of land) homestead and among 5 lakh landless families in Bihar. Nitish Kumar government has failed to distribute the Bhoodan land and land in excess of Ceiling Act among the the landless, disregarding the recommendations of D Bandhopadyaya Commission.

Although CPI’s influence has waned, it still has 3 MLAs while CPM has 1. CPI(ML) has 5 legislators in Bihar. In the October 2005 assembly elections, CPI had contested 35 seats but won only 3 seats and 2.09 % vote. CPM had contested 10 seats and won 1 seat and 0.68 % votes. CPI-ML had contested 85 seats and won 5 seats and 2.38 % votes.

In the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, Communist Party Of India (Marxist), CPI and CPI(ML) had joined hands for the first time. They had fielded 33 candidates but could not succeed.

As is quite usual during elections, new parties do get formed making democracy dynamic at least in form. Devendra Prasad Yadav, former RJP MP has launched a new party, Samajwadi Janata Dal (Democratic) on August 19, 2010. Prasad has been a four time member of Lok Sabha member from Jhanjahrpur. He is expected to join the Third Front if it takes shape.

Notably, Yadavs constitute 13 per cent and Muslims constitute 16.5 per cent of Bihar’s population are play a key role in state politics. Extremely backsward castes (EBCs) and mahadalits too have become a significant player in the state's electoral scene.

Amidst predictions of a hung assembly, it must be said that it is the voting pattern of these caste communities that will determine the fate of Bihar elections and not astrologers.

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