Former BJP leader and ex-Union minister Yashwant Sinha is touring Bihar. He floated a new political outfit, the United Democratic Alliance, for the Bihar Assembly election. The outfit is likely to put up candidates in some constituencies but political observers in Bihar say Yashwant Sinha's outfit is not in the real contest in the upcoming Bihar polls, which would see a direct fight between the NDA and the Mahagathbandhan.
Yashwant Sinha, however, is meeting people, canvassing for a change of leadership in Bihar. He is going among the people affected by drought and flood, and battling to get medical attention in the times of a raging coronavirus pandemic.
Bihar is fast heading towards an assembly election despite a spike in coronavirus cases across the state and a ravaging flood in around half the districts. The Election Commission of India has clearly indicated that the assembly polls will be held in time, that is, during October-November.
Pre-election realignments are taking place in Bihar, signalling that parties are trying to find a "winning formula". The JDU of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has sacked Shyam Rajak, a Dalit leader who was a minister in the state government after reports emerged of him being in touch with the rival RJD.
And, to compensate, the JDU is in talks with another Dalit leader and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who had parted ways with Nitish Kumar after the JDU president wanted him to vacate the CM's chair for him ahead of 2015 polls. Nitish Kumar had walked out of the NDA back then.
Nitish Kumar is eyeing another electoral victory in alliance with the BJP and the LJP in the upcoming polls. Former Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD is the principal rival to Nitish Kumar's electioneering this time around. Given the organisational strength of the BJP-RSS in Bihar, Nitish Kumar appears confident of victory.
However, the small band of leaders under Yashwant Sinha is campaigning in Bihar asking people to use their vote wisely. They are not necessarily seeking votes for their yet undecided candidates. Their emphasis is on "change Bihar, build better Bihar" by defeating the Nitish Kumar government.
THE YASHWANT PLAYERS
This small group consists of leaders such as Devendra Prasad Yadav, Narendra Singh, Arun Kumar, Nagmani and Renu Kushwaha. None of them has an overarching influence across Bihar but they can impact elections in certain pockets.
Devendra Prasad Yadav rose in Bihar politics during the JP Movement that primarily channelled the youth's anger over localised issues against the Indira Gandhi government at the Centre in mid-1970s.
Yadav's claim to fame was vacating his legislative assembly constituency for then Chief Minister Karpuri Thakur, the socialist leader held in high esteem by both Nitish Kumar and his rival Lalu Prasad.
Later he became a Union minister but the credit for his Lok Sabha victory was given to Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. Still, he is influential in four to five assembly constituencies in Madhubani and Darbhanga districts of Bihar.
Similarly, former Lok Sabha MP Arun Kumar can influence election outcomes in some South Bihar constituencies. Narendra Singh is a former minister and holds considerable influence in Munger, Banka and Jamui districts. LJP president Chirag Paswan is an MP from Jamui.
Son of late socialist leader Jagdeo Prasad of Bihar, Nagmani is a former Union minister and known for party-hopping with some influence in South Bihar. He had won his Lok Sabha seat from Chatra in Jharkhand, though. Hailing from Jehanabad, he hopes to help Yashwant Sinha's "Let's Change Bihar" campaign.
Former Lok Sabha MP Renu Kushwaha is another leader of the Yashwant Sinha camp toying with the idea of a "third front" in Bihar. She was with the BJP and can influence the outcome of assembly elections in some constituencies in Samastipur district.
THE OUTCOME TALKS
The group is reaching out to Independent and smaller outfits with very limited electoral reach. Mathematically, Independent and smaller parties poll 15-20 per cent votes in assembly elections in Bihar.
In 2015, their combined vote share was around 17.50 per cent. Cumulatively, their vote share was around one per cent less than the votes polled by the RJD, which had emerged as the single-largest party with 18.35 per cent votes.
Though Yashwant Sinha has been claiming a "surprising" result in Bihar Assembly election, it seems the group is targeting to stage an upset by swinging votes at the panchayat level in as many constituencies as they can. Given that assembly constituencies are won or lost by small margins, the group may pose a serious challenge to Nitish Kumar's comeback campaign.