Small parties gear up to enter the poll arena to take on bigwigs in Bihar

Nitish Kumar dumped the Grand Alliance last year and returned to the NDA fold
With the Lok Sabha elections just months away, new political outfits are gearing up to enter the poll arena to take on the bigwigs. Parties like former chief minister Jitan Ram Manji’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) [HAM(S)] and Pappu Yadav’s Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik) [(JAP(L)] will make their debut in the parliamentary elections next year. Meanwhile, newly created outfits such as Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party’s (RLSP’s) rebel MP Arun Kumar’s Rashtriya Samata Party and Mumbai-based businessman Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) have also thrown their hat in the poll ring.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress alliance seems to be wooing these parties. Some have even joined the Grand Alliance. While senior leaders of the Janata Dal (United) and BJP dismiss as seasonal outfits, analysts say they could tilt the caste balance in a few constituencies.

Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular)

Though it won just one seat in the 2015 assembly election as an NDA constituent, the party secured 27 per cent of the Mahadalit votes — particularly those of the Mushars — in the constituencies it contested.

As the JD (U) returned to the BJP fold, Manjhi found himself overshadowed. Hence he switched sides and joined the RJD-led electoral alliance in February this year. According to sources, Manjhi wants at least five seats for his party. But the RJD is offering only the Gaya constituency to the veteran leader.

Jan Adhikar Party (Loktantrik)

In March 2013 RJD President Lalu Prasad had termed the return of Pappu Yadav to his party “Bharat Milap”. The “milan”, however, didn’t last long. Problems started popping up between the two leaders as soon as Lalu began projecting his younger son Tejaswi as his successor.

Pappu, who saw himself as the natural successor of the Yadav patriarch, attacked the first family of the RJD. He also cosied up to the BJP in the run-up to the 2015 assembly election and floated his party, which, however, failed to make an impression and couldn’t win even one seat in the 2015 election. The BJP distanced itself from the former don after 2015. Pappu, then, tried returning to the Grand Alliance camp via Congress. Tejaswi, however, put his foot down and asked the Congress not to entertain Pappu. Still many believe the leader can make a dent as he continues to enjoy support among the Yadavs in the Kosi region.

Loktantrik Janata Dal

Next year's election would mark the debut of socialist stalwart Sharad Yadav's LJD. Sharad, who last year broke ranks with Nitish Kumar over his decision to break away with the Grand Alliance, launched the LJD in May this year as its patron. The Lohia acolyte is silent on the LJD’s prospects in the RJD-Congress alliance in Bihar. While Yadav has repeatedly said the LJD will remain part of the Grand Alliance, it’s not clear how many seats it will get. While insiders say the party wants three seats in Bihar, the RJD leadership believed to have offered the Madhepura seat to Sharad.

Vikassheel Insan Party

A school dropout, Mukesh Sahni used to make film sets in Bollywood. However, his shot to fame came during the Bihar assembly election in 2015, when he embarked on a Rath Yatra to mobilise the Nishad (boatmen) community. Mallah or Nishad is a collective identity almost 24 sub-castes whose livelihood is traditionally linked to the river. Now they are the part of extremely backward castes (EBCs) in the state.

Earlier this month he held a rally in Patna, where he launched his party. The businessman-turned-politician even declared he would be the kingmaker in Bihar. Sahni is talking to the RJD and the BJP. According to sources, the RJD has offered him the Muzaffarpur seat, but Sahni wants two more.

Rashtriya Samta Party (Secular)

The Rashtriya Lok Samta Party’s (RLSP’s) MP from Jehanabad, Arun Kumar, is a prominent figure among the Bhumihars, an influential caste in Bihar. He formed his party on October 28 and made his intent to join the Grand Alliance clear as he attacked Nitish Kumar, but remained soft on Lalu. Many say given the resentment among the upper castes, especially the youth, Kumar could make things tough for the JD(U)-BJP alliance in the Magadh region.

Most analysts say these outfits have a limited, but loyal, voter base. Given the charged atmosphere ahead of the 2019 general election, the value of these voters has increased. They may not have an impact on their own but could influence the outcome in a larger alliance. However, whether these political outfits and their leaders can transfer their votes to the alliance partners is the factor that remains to be seen.

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