Commentary

Bihar's Minor Political Parties Are Struggling For Relevance

Abhishek Kumar

Apr 02, 2024, 05:44 PM | Updated Apr 03, 2024, 12:25 PM IST


Representative Image
Representative Image

On 29 March 2024, Bihar faction of Indian National Developmental Inclusive (INDI) Alliance finalised its seat sharing arrangement. 

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will contest from 26 seats, while Congress and left parties will contest from nine and five seats respectively. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has already declared its candidates.

One trend which is common in both NDA and INDI alliances is the reduced role of smaller parties, whether they are regional or national ones.

Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM)

HAM led by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi holds significant command over Mahadalit (10 per cent) votes, especially in Gaya, Nawada, Jahanabad and Aurangabad. In 2019, HAM bagged three seats from Mahagathbandhan.

In 2024, HAM, part of NDA, could get only one seat, Gaya. Manjhi, who lost last bout in 2019 from Vijay Kumar Majhi of Janta Dal United (JDU) himself is contesting with changed loyalty.

Vikasheel Insaan Party (VIP)

VIP led by Mukesh Sahani enjoys support among 20 sub-castes of Mallah (fishermen) community. In 2019 general elections (GE), the party fielded three candidates, including Sahani, but couldn't taste success.

However, it holds the potential to spoil the game of others. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) realised it when Sahani’s involvement made the party lose in 2022 Bochahaa bypolls. Amit Shah tried to woo Sahani, including providing him Y-security. But Sahani did not buzz, though his party members did.

BJP has been successful in getting VIP’s key leaders in its kitty, including Rajbhushan Choudhary, BJP’s candidate from Muzaffarpur in 2024. With RJD keen on dominating INDI Alliance, Sahani’s VIP has no one and nowhere to go.

Rashatriya Lok Morcha (RLM)

RLM formed in the wee hours of 2023 is led by Upendra Kushwaha. In 2019, Kushwaha, then president of now defunct Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) was part of Mahagathbandhan and had fielded five candidates. In March 2021, Kushwaha merged RLSP with JDU again.

RLM, formed after Kushwaha’s feud with Nitish Kumar over possibility of choosing Tejashwi Yadav as his successor is a reincarnation of RLSP, and is part of NDA in 2024. Kumar’s entry into NDA left little space for him to bargain. Karakat is the only seat where RLM is contesting with Kushwaha himself in charge.

Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) 

In 2019, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led by Ram Vilas Paswan fielded 6 candidates from NDA with 100 per cent success rate. After his death, the party split into LJP (Ram Vilas) led by Chirag Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party (RLJP) led by his uncle Pashupati Kumar Paras.

LJP (Ram Vilas) and the aura of Chirag Paswan among Biharis proved to be handy for part as it bagged five seats, one less than what unified LJP got in 2019. It is considered a significant momentum changer for Paswan.

The family feud, however, provided the BJP with more leverage, diminishing the LJP's chances of negotiating a better deal.

Congress

By all definitions, Congress now appears to be a minor player in Bihar politics. The party is contesting nine seats in 2024, the same as 2019. Despite numbers indicating equilibrium, the party has lost a lot. JDU’s exit from alliance with RJD provided the Congress room to negotiate for more seats. It wanted to contest on at least a dozen seats.

However, RJD offered it only nine seats, as it doesn’t want see the Congress revived in the state. Compared to 19 in 2019, RJD has fielded 26 candidates in 2024.

Congress had to succumb to demand. Moreover, the party also couldn’t bag Aurangabad, Purnea, Katihar, Siwan and Begusarai, the seats it sees as favourable.

Jan Adhikar Party (JAP)

JAP’s chief Pappu Yadav decided to merge his party with Congress in the hope that the party will let him contest from Purnea. Yadav is said to have taken blessings from Lalu Yadav before merging his party. It was understood that RJD won’t object to his candidature.

But suddenly the party decided to field JDU turncoat Beema Bharti from Purnea. Shocked, Pappu Yadav is running offices for negotiations, but to no avail. Yadav also won’t buzz and has said that he will be filing his nomination from Purnea on 4 April 2014.

Left parties

The Left tasted its last success in Bihar in 1999 from Bhagalpur. In 2019, they combinely fielded six candidates, including their JNU stalwart Kanhaiya Kumar. the left lost all six seats. In 2024, the left front is part of the INDI alliance and has been allocated five seats.

Communist Party of India (CPI) (Marxist–Leninist) will contest from three seats, while CPI and CPI (Marxist) will field their candidates from one seat each.

The Downfall

The downfall of these parties has come about for different reasons, but there are few recurring themes present as a catalyst in all of the aforementioned declines.

One, regional parties adopted a narrow approach.

Entities like HAM, RLM, and VIP lacked a broader vision for statewide expansion. Instead, they focused on specific communities and formed their parties around them, existing within their own caste silos.

This narrow base rendered them susceptible, and their downfall was expedited by the penetrating scrutiny of electoral contests.

Two, many of them attempted to punch above their weight.

Congress' claim over a dozen seats doesn't make sense, especially when its voter base has been eroded by RJD and JDU over the past two decades.

Within the NDA, BJP consistently requires the support of regional parties in Bihar to counter its perception as the 'party of the forwards'. Since Nitish Kumar was not aligned with them, BJP made considerable efforts to secure the support of VIP. However, VIP requested 11 seats, clearly overestimating its strength. Additionally, BJP continued to seek out JDU. Ultimately, after JDU's reentry into the NDA, Mukesh Sahani finds himself with no takers. Pashupati Paras faced a similar fate.

Except perhaps for Chirag Paswan's LJP, which has been of utility to the BJP in cutting Nitish to size in the past, all minor political forces in Bihar are now operating on thin margins, far from being the king makers they once saw themselves as.


Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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