The Mahagathbandhan’s consolidation of its vote in Bihar looks under threat. Deserters from its flock and independent players are both chipping away at its advantages, certain to use the contradictions within the alliance to the BJP’s favour.

If politics was simply about arithmetic, the Mahagathbandhan of Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and the Congress could easily be placed way above the majority mark in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. The distribution of their votes in the Lok Sabha in each Assembly constituency clearly shows that Nitish and Lalu’s combined votes polled is dangerous for the BJP.

What’s fair?

Another critical dimension of these numbers is that Lalu Prasad’s party fared much better than the JD (U) of Nitish Kumar, who is the sitting and projected chief ministerial candidate for the alliance. The JD(U) polled more votes than the RJD in just about 48 Assembly constituencies in their respective parliamentary segments during the General Elections. If past performance is any criterion, the RJD should have got a share of over 160 seats in the alliance. Since the RJD and JD(U) have agreed to contest an equal number of 100 seats, there is a distinct possibility of rebellion and heartburn within the RJD’s ranks in each of the constituencies where the party did well in 2014 but allotted the seat to the JD(U).

Based on interactions with Lalu Prasad as well as strategists in Nitish Kumar’s team, it transpires that this is the single biggest factor worrying them at the moment. Although Lalu told BusinessLine that he has told his supporters and partymen to “heed the party whip” on the subject, the prospect of rebellion by the powerful within the RJD appears imminent. Even from the JD(U), which won 115 seats in the 2010 Assembly elections, sitting MLAs are bound to be denied tickets as the party is contesting only 100 seats. This is where Messrs Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD rebel Papu Yadav and the Nationalist Congress Party come in. They will most likely rope in deserters from the alliance after the seats have finally been allocated. In a closely fought election, powerful rebels have the potential to spoil calculations for the alliance. “It is a big problem. We are trying to sort it out. But some rebellion cannot be ruled out,” a senior JD(U) leader told BusinessLine .

Another dimension being discussed within the alliance’s fold is – who do Asaduddin Owaisi, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha, Ram Vilas Paswan, RJD rebel Pappu Yadav and the combined Left Front that includes the CPI, the CPI(M) and the CPI(ML) (Liberation) hurt the most?

The obvious answer is that all of these political forces have their popular support base among the OBCs, EBCs, Dalits, Mahadalits and the Muslims who form the backbone of the Mahagathbandhan’s social support base. The BJP’s forward caste support base is more or less intact. Anything else is an addition.

That is the reason why the JD(U) President Sharad Yadav is beseeching Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mulayam himself is a bit player. He cannot win but he can certainly play spoilsport. Altogether, the BJP is not the only force the alliance is fighting.

It is the enemy within, friends such as Mulayam, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Ram Vilas Paswan and Papu Yadav who threaten to damage them the most in Bihar.

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