BJP's Mission 185 in Bihar - Bold Target or Bravado ?

Bihar is the third most populous State in the country with 10.4 crore people. Area wise it ranks 13th. The State has historically been backward and was part of the infamous BIMARU. Post the establishment of the NDA Government (BJP + JDU) in 2005, Bihar registered amongst the highest GDP growth in the country (of course, low base effect has played a role). It has the second highest density of population in the country at 1,100 per km square (3 times the national average) second only to Delhi. Bihar has low literacy levels at 61 per cent (28th in the country). The State has given the country great politicians like Dr Rajendra Prasad and Jai Prakash Narayan. JP Movement has it roots in the State. Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in year 2000, whereby its Lok Sabha seats reduced from 54 to 40 and its Vidhan Sabha seats reduced from 324 to 243. The State has the second largest population of Muslims in the country.

The State was amongst the nine States in India which elected a non-Congress Chief Minister in 1967 after Ram Manohar Lohia persuaded Opposition to unite and put up a single candidate against the Congress. The JP Movement in 1977 again saw a non-Congress Government in Bihar. After the split in the Janata Party, the Congress bounced back in Bihar in 1980. In 1985 after Indira Gandhi’s death the Congress got re-elected. The years between 1985-1990 saw the comeback of Janata Dal under Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Janata Dal formed a social coalition of OBCs, Yadavs, Muslims to win the elections in 1990 and Lalu Yadav became the Chief Minister of Bihar. This started the Lalu era in Bihar - 'jab tak rahega samose mein aloo tab tak rahega Bihar mein Lalu' - his party ruled the State for 15 years. When he was accused in Fodder Scam and had to go to jail, his wife Rabri  became the Chief Minister of the State. If the Gandhis can do it, why not the Yadavs.

Janata Dal emerged as the single largest party with 122 seats, 41 seats short of majority in 1990 and formed the Government with the support of communists and Independents. In 1995,  Lalu Prasad Yadav got absolute majority with 167 seats. In 2000, it was a hung Assembly. Lalu's Rashtriya Janata Dal (he broke away from parent Janata Dal and formed his won regional outfit) emerged as the single largest party with 124 seats. NDA which comprised Samata Party (Nitish Kumar broke away from his friend Lalu and formed his own outfit in 1994), Janata Dal United (Sharad Yadav) and BJP got 121 seats. In a controversial decision , Governor appointed Nitish as CM. He failed to get the numbers and resigned within 10 days. Lalu again formed the govt. in the state.Vote share of parties in Vidhan Sabha

In 2003, before the State elections in 2005, Nitish-led Samata Party merged with Sharad Yadav-led Janata Dal United. NDA in 2005 defeated Lalu Prasad Yadav handsomely ending his 'jungle raj' and Nitish became the Chief Minister with 143 / 243 seats. The period saw massive development in the State deprived under Lalu Prasad Yadav's regime. In 2010, people voted for NDA again and they got 206 / 243 seats. Lalu Prasad Yadav was reduced to 22 seats. His party didn’t even get the Leader of Opposition post similar to current Congress like situation in Parliament. The polls witnessed clear support for the NDA with few close contests. Only 40 / 243 seats saw victory margins of less than 5,000 votes.

In July 2013, JDU and BJP broke their 17 years of marriage. Nitish Kumar sensed BJP was going to elevate Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate and he ended the alliance fearing he would lose minority votes. Real reason was that he himself harboured PM ambitions and thought the Congress would support him in case of a hung Parliament. Logically, he should have resigned and asked for fresh elections as people voted for the NDA and not the JDU in Bihar in 2010. He didn't and survived through support of the Congress / Independents and later Lalu Prasad Yadav.During this entire period, decline of the Congress is very significant. Its vote share declined from 33 per cent in 1967 (when it lost) to 8 per cent in 2010.

His bet didn't pay off and JDU lost badly in Lok Sabha in 2014 winning only 2 seats. Meanwhile, NDA won 31 / 40 seats with 39 per cent vote share and JDU got 16 per cent and RJD + Congress (UPA) 30 per cent vote share.

Last week's BJP strategy meeting it is believed has raised the target in Bihar to an ambitious 3/4ths Majority with a new catchphrase - Mission 185 in Bihar. Those who know Amit Shah's go-getter political focus would not be surprised by this ambitious target while to many it may seem bravado. A little known aspect of Amit Shah's political strategy is his laser sharp focus on numbers and micro-target setting.Nitish Kumar took moral responsibility and resigned. JDU fought bypolls together with the Congress and the RJD and won 6/10 seats. These parties are likely to fight State polls which are due at the end of 2015 together.

The big question for the BJP though is if it can maintain its Lok Sabha performance or if the Nitish + Lalu merger will be able stop the BJP juggernaut. The wildcard though in Nitish’s calculations is his pick for Bihar CM - Manjhi who has been striking a mildly defiant and independent tone that could ultimately upset the calculations of a 'Happy United Janata Parivar'.

Courtesy Niti Central





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