Bihar ballot battleground: Where VIP is a party with BED fellow

IF DELHI has Aam Aadmi Party, Bihar has Aam Aadmi (United). And BHAJP in the state is not Hindi for BJP; it expands to Bharatiya Jagaran Party.

Political parties are born by the baker’s dozen in Bihar, particularly in the election season. Some like former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha align with major parties in a bid to become key regional players.

Most end up as also-rans.

In 2010, Bihar recorded an average 14 contestants per assembly constituency. Of the total 3,523 candidates across 243 seats, 591 represented 70 unrecognised but registered parties.

These included Vanchitsamaj Insaaf Party (VIP), Sarvhara Dal, Garib Vikas Party, Lal Morcha, All India Babu Jagjivan Ram Saheb National Congress, Akhil Bhartiya Atyanta Pichhra Sangharsh Morcha Party and Bharatiya Ekta Dal (BED).

Barring eight, all the candidates of these parties had their deposits forfeited. But they did account for 3.89% of the total votes polled.

Mandate 2015 has seen newer parties join the fray. A few have found it hard to get candidates, others claimed to have been spoilt for choice.

The Bharat Nirman Party, for instance, has shortlisted the “best of candidates” to contest seven seats – one in the first phase on October 12 and six in the third phase on October 28.

“Our agenda includes shutting down 70% liquor shops in Bihar, criminalising conversion and creation of a Bharat Nirman Sena towards ending unemployment,” party president Shiv Bihari Singhalia told HT.

The Arakshan Samarthak Party, or ASP, intends to field at least two candidates in each of Bihar’s 38 districts, but is sure of only one candidate – Renu Kushwaha from Patna’s Kumhrarh assembly constituency – as of now.

“We want to guarantee government job for at least one member of each family in the state, build toilets at every crossing and rest houses for poor daily-wagers who come to the cities from villages,” Uday Shankar Mehta, ASP spokesperson, said.

The Bahujan Mukti Party wants to do away with the creamy layer of OBC and MOBC (More Other Backward Classes) if it comes to power.

“We hope to put up a tough fight in the 32 seats we are contesting in the first two phases,” party chief Vijay Kumar Singh said.

Other similarly ambitious parties include the Rashtriya Yadav Adhikar Manch, Janta Dal Rashtravadi and Sarvajan Kalyan Loktantrik Party.

The Non-Political Front is not contesting, but it has been campaigning against 33 MLAs who have changed parties. “We are also asking people not to vote for political families and candidates with criminal records,” Om Prakash Mehta, the Front’s coordinator, said.

Besides, the Front plans to move the EC for making the Mizoram-style campaigning mandatory across India.

In that north-eastern state, social organisations impose certain restrictions on political parties. Accordingly, candidates are not allowed to badmouth each other, and campaigning usually means sharing a common dais where each candidate is given a chance to say why he or she deserves to be voted.

(A truncated version of this story appeared in Hindustan Times today)


About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
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