It is a paradox of sorts as not a single leader, including chief minister Nitish Kumar, hogging headlines this Bihar elections is himself contesting the polls. All major political parties are in fray in the ongoing assembly elections that will send 243 members to the Legislative Assembly.
Bihar is a political hotbed now and the heat is set to push the setting winter with top newsmakers hop-jumping and flying-in to give election speeches. They are touring every nook and corner, shaking the conscience of the voters telling them what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ for them.
Be it Congress’ Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh; Bhartiya Janata Party’s Nitin Gadkari, L.K.Advani, Arun Jaitley and Ravishankar Prasad; Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad Yadav and Raghuvansh Prasad Singh; Lok Janshakti Party’s Ramvilas Paswan; Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Prakash Karat; Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati; and Janata Dal (United)’s Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar – all are talking much on who will be the chief minister.
These leaders are giving fiery speeches across the state and have been consuming over 90 per cent of newspaper space while eclipsing all other issues on national television. Among the political parties, the main contenders this election are Nitish’s ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance which is being challenged by Lalu-Paswan’s RJD-LJP coalition, while the Congress too has thrown its hat by contesting all 243 seats at stake. Interestingly all these contenders are claiming that their party (only) will be forming the government in Bihar; and “I will be the chief minister” is the common refrain.
It is however travesty of democracy that all such leaders eying the chief ministerial chair are safely placed either in the state legislature or in the central legislature. While Nitish is a member of Bihar Legislative Council where his term ends in 2012, his arch rivals and chief ministerial aspirants Lalu and Ramvilas are Members of Parliament.
Nitish’s JD(U) says the Bihar Chief Minister is deliberately not contesting the elections as there is no need. Nitish is already a member of the legislative council and his term expires only in 2012 so he is devoting his time and energy for campaigning, using his image as an efficient administrator.
Lalu’s wife and ex-chief minister Rabri Devi is though contesting from two seats and his party RJD says if she wins both her seats, and the RJD-LJP combine gets majority, then Lalu will contest from one of the seats that his wife will vacate.
Senior journalist Ramashankar Singh is not amused at such ifs-and-buts. “This six-phase election is a litmus test for all the leaders but I am surprised that no one is ready to appear in the test,” he says, adding “I am visiting tiny hamlets, towns and rallies and I have observed that most of the leaders are being imported to Bihar to give sizzling touches to their parties.” His views are echoed by social worker Mamta Singh: “Why can’t Lalu and Ramvilas resign their parliamentary seats if they are indeed serious about Bihar. They are making mockery and taking the electorates to ransom. There is still time and they should fight the ensuing elections. I think they are shying away from contesting. They themselves are not sure that they will form the government. Then why would the voters believe them?”
On Congress’ chances, its youth wing leader Raman Singh says the party has not declared its chief ministerial candidate yet. But with just nine MLAs (in the outgoing assembly) to boast of, what more the party has to lose. “We are the third angle in the triangular contest. We are contesting all 243 seats,” asserts Singh, hoping Congress will be a kingmaker, if not the king when counting begins on November 24.