A veteran and novice revive ‘mundane’ Bihar politics

Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and London-returned Pushpam Priya Choudhary offer alternative to Lalu-Nitish regimes in the state

While Yashwant Sinha claims present dispensation has disappointed the masses, Pushpam Priya Choudhary says Bihar deserves a better future. Photo: PTI/Twitter

Politics in Bihar had lost its appeal due to two reasons — the conviction and imprisonment of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav in three fodder scam cases and the reunion of JD(U) president and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with the NDA camp, which gained an edge in the state. However, the entire situation has got an interesting twist ahead of the assembly elections in the state.

What has sparked a sudden interest in the Bihar politics is the announcement of former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha to form a Third Front and jump into the poll arena so as to give a new “political alternative” to the people of the state who are fed up with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s family that have ruled the state consecutively for thee decades.

Sinha who held key portfolios in the AB Vajpayee government returned to Bihar only last fortnight when he announced a stay in the state. But, until June 27, nobody knew that he was set to start a new innings in politics.

The 83-year-old leader who quit the BJP in 2018, after being constantly sidelined in the party told reporters in Patna, “The present dispensation has disappointed the masses by failing to live up to their expectations. So, our focus is on replacing it with a government that is sensitive to the people’s needs.”

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Strangely, Sinha was seen in the company of leaders such as Nagmani, Narendra Singh, Devendra Prasad Yadav, Arun Kumar, Purnmasi Ram and Renu Devi — most of them being ace turncoats now dumped and rejected by the masses.

Of them, Nagmani, son of veteran socialist leader late Jagdeo Prasad, has been infamous for switching sides at the drop of hats. Nagmani himself must not be aware of how many parties he had joined in his lifetime. The remaining leaders too don’t have their own standing and have survived only with the support of others.

Sinha’s move appears more like lending a helping hand to the Opposition Grand Alliance, which also comprises the Congress, since the leaders who are set to be a part of the Third Front have come from communities that had been the traditional vote-bank of the BJP-led NDA.

For instance, Yashwant Sinha comes from upper caste Kayashtha community, Nagmani and Renu Devi come from backward Kushwaha caste, Narendra Singh from Rajput caste, Arun Singh from Bhumihar caste and Purnmasi Ram from the Dalit community. Only Devendra Yadav comes from the Yadav caste which is largely inclined towards Lalu’s party.

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So, if these leaders are able to get even one per cent vote from their respective communities in every constituency, it could leave a huge impact on the final poll outcome.

“I don’t think Sinha’s entry will leave any impact on the Bihar politics. Firstly, he doesn’t have his mass following and secondly, the leaders joining his front are spent force,” commented political analyst Prof DM Diwakar. According to him, there will be a straight contest between the Nitish Kumar-led NDA and RJD-led Grand Alliance.

Another political expert Satya Narayan Madan too doesn’t find any potential in the Sinha-led Third Front. “Sinha might have won elections and become a minister, but he doesn’t have his own political base. He has never been closely associated with Bihar and also doesn’t have his influence on any caste groups,” Madan explained.

The second factor which has made the Bihar poll scene very interesting is the entry of Pushpam Priya Choudhary, a youth leader who has done Master of Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Pushpam who has formed a political outfit nicknamed “Plurals” already announced herself as the “Bihar’s Chief Minister Candidate for 2020”. Right from throwing her hat in the ring, she has been hopping from one village to another, seeking support from villagers.

Pushpam shot into limelight in March this year when she issued two full-page advertisements in all prominent vernacular newspapers. “I pledge to make Bihar India’s most developed state by 2025 and bring its growth rate at par with any European nation by 2020,” she claimed.

She also appealed to the masses to give her a chance. “I want to change Bihar because it deserves a better future. My party is not only a political movement, but an exercise to free India from all ills…and this exercise has already started,” she declared.

She urged the masses to join her party saying, “Bihar needs pace, Bihar needs wings, Bihar needs change. Because Bihar deserves better and better is possible. Reject bullish politics, join Plurals to make Bihar run and fly in 2020.”

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Finally, this will be the first election since 1990 when RJD chief Lalu Prasad will not be on the polls, tickling the bones of the rural masses with his rustic quotes and raising the issues of the commons in their own languages. In his absence, it is his younger son Tejashwi Yadav who is scheduled to lead the poll campaign.

Tejashwi’s campaign during the last Lok Sabha polls proved to be a disaster, but this is not a national election, and hence many local issues are set to impact the poll results this time. Political experts said the performance of Nitish, during his first tenure, was visible but his next two tenures had failed to impress the masses. But the problem is that a leader of his stature is missing in the state.

Apparently, this is the reason why the BJP too doesn’t take any risk to dump Nitish, despite winning national elections twice. So, it will be interesting to watch how the Nitish-led NDA staves off Opposition attacks this time. Also, Tejashwi has matured over the years and it will be foolish to ignore the scion of Lalu in the current situation.