Pataliputra to Patna – The oldest epicentre of Indian politics

Since the early days of the Aryan Civilization, Pataliputra or the modern day Patna has been a key political centre. Although rulers have changed since the time of Maurya dynasty, the power struggles continue to this date with no permanent friends or no permanent enemies. The tussles between various parties take a new form with each passing year and each term of the assembly as the current assembly is headed towards elections around the month of November.

What was once the capital of Nanda dynasty was won over by the Chandragupta Maurya under the clever strategies of Chanakya. It also became the capital of the Gupta dynasty which is considered as the golden age of India by many historians. As India moved into the Colonial Era, Bihar was the centre to many key political events such as Battle of Buxar and Champaran struggle of the Indigo farmers. Politicians from Bihar, such as J.P.Narayan, played key roles in fighting against the Emergency rule of 1975-77. During this period, he started an underground movement to counter the curbed civil liberties during the Emergency. The Janata Party was founded under his guidance and went on to win the general elections in 1977 after the Emergency was revoked.

In the most recent context, a key political event happened when Janata Dal (United) broke its 17 year relationship with Bharatiya Janata Party before the General Elections of 2014 which led to various new political trends in Bihar. Following the split, JD (U) contested the General Elections but were reduced to minority position against the BJP-LJP alliance. Following this, turmoil ensued when the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar resigned and Jitan Ram Manjhi became the new Chief Minister. JD(U) won the trust vote when the foe-turned-friend Rashtriya Janata Dal supported them. However, when Nitish Kumar wanted to return in February 2015, Jitan Ram Manjhi refused to step down which resulted in his resignation as another trust vote was demanded. He was later expelled from JD(U). Eventually, he floated his new political party, Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM).

As the incumbent government is distributing more social benefits to influence the vital votebanks of the backward castes in the state, key opposition in the state, BJP, is also modifying election strategy to cater to the backward castes. With the JD (U) split from BJP, alliances have drastically changed. Currently, JD(U), Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party are under a single alliance with Nitish Kumar having started the campaign with the Har Ghar Dastak slogan. The NDA now consists primarily of Bharatiya Janata Party, Lok Janashakti Party led by Ram Vilas Paswan, Hindustan Awam Morcha led by Jitan Ram Manjhi. However, the NDA is yet to announce a CM contender. One year since the General Elections, BJP is no longer seen as a strong candidate in the state elections. The party is plagued by internal rife and does not have a CM candidate as well. The Janata Parivar alliance of JD(U), RJD, Samajwadi Party is emerging strong as Modi wave has not had much impact since the last year. Old rivals joining forces to fight BJP, bad results in Delhi, infighting are problems that continue to weigh down BJP and NDA. As the Vyapam scam continues to unravel in Madhya Pradesh which implicates all levels of BJP government in the state, the bad winds could flow east and affect the outcome in Bihar as well.

The test of 250 seats in Bihar is a landmark election for all the parties in Bihar as it is a key to their political futures and a test for newly formed critical alliances. Although there are no clear favourites in the race as of now, there seems to be an upper hand and a first mover advantage for the incumbents. With almost 4 months to go, there is scope for a lot of major change but the contest would be an interesting one for politicians, political observers and the people of Bihar.

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Srinidhi Govindarajan
Team Netapedia