“I have seen alliances before. But never have I seen the activists working together like this on the ground. This is because people want a united front to throw out a useless government. It is historic,” said an ebullient Munshi Singh, popularly known as Munshji. He should know – he is all of 93 years old, and has been a Communist all his adult life.
Every day for the past few weeks, the sprightly Munshiji gets ready in the morning to hit the campaign trail in Maharajganj town of Siwan district in north-western Bihar.
“I am campaigning for the local Congress candidate Vijay Shankar Dubey,” he told NewsClick, adding, “In other seats, they are campaigning for us.”
NewsClick reporters covering the tumultuous Bihar Assembly campaign have found the same thing in every part of the state. Cutting across party lines, the Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance parties are collectively working from door to door campaigns to cycle rallies to street corner meetings, and the big rallies where party leaders speak. The atmosphere is charged, the pace frenetic but the mood is upbeat and confident. And, the people are happy that the alliance is talking about their lives and their distress.
Polling for the Assembly elections has already taken place for two phases covering 165 of the total 243 seats. The remaining 78 seats will go to polls on November 7. Counting is on November 10.
Grand Alliance Partners Working Together
Shaban Khan, a local RJD leader of Haroon colony that falls under Phulwarisharif Assembly seat in Patna district, is working wholeheartedly for the Grand Alliance candidate, who is from the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).
“For us he is a Grand Alliance candidate. All RJD workers are doing everything to ensure his victory,” said Shaban. “Our booth level workers’ meetings to village and mohalla level meetings and door to door visit reflect the unity,” he added.
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Islamuddin, a local CPI(ML) leader in Purnea district which will go to polls on November 7, claimed that their party’s full organisational support was for the Mahagathbandhan candidate Indu Sinha of Congress, on the Purnea Sadar seat.
“We have deputed a vehicle for campaign along with cadres, flags and soundbox to highlight our vision for Bihar that was betrayed for 15 long years by Nitish Kumar’s government,” he told NewsClick.
Amit Kumar, a Congress leader in Begusarai said that the alliance candidate, Congress party’s sitting MLA Amita Bhusan is getting full support of workers of Left parties and Rashtriya Janata Dal.
“This is first time that Left parties’ cadres are campaigning for our candidate as all of us are part of Grand Alliance. A united flight has its own advantage,” he said.
Satyendar Yadav, CPI (Marxist) candidate in the fray from the Manjhi Assembly seat, has managed his campaign smoothly thanks to a united effort by leaders and workers of Grand Alliance.
“All parties’ workers have been working together. We have a joint rally and different meetings,” Yadav said.
In Masaurhi and Paliganj Assembly seats, where polls concluded in the first phase on October 28, CPI(ML) workers were seen campaigning for the RJD candidate and RJD workers jointly campaigned for the CPI (ML) candidate.
Lal Babu Yadav, RJD Terari block President in conversation with NewsClick said, “Our workers holding the red flag and lantern have vigorously campaigned for CPI(ML) candidate Sudama Prasad with an aim to defeat the divisive communal force i.e. JDU-BJP combine.”
Most of the Grand Alliance’s joint rallies addressed by its star campaigners including Tejashwi Yadav, who is the Chief Ministerial candidate, present a different flavour as Left parties’ red and RJD’s green along with Congress’ tricolour flags in the workers’ hands flutter all over.
A senior Congress leader Manjeet Anand Sahu said, “We are working as a collective team all across. There is no problem of coordination despite the fact it is the first time that RJD, Congress and Left parties are contesting Assembly polls together.”
People’s Support Growing
The main reason behind this momentum and energy in the opposition campaign is emanating from the enthusiastic support given by common people to their platform. The highlighting of unemployment, closure of industries, farmers’ distress and lack of healthcare facilities and educational opportunities have touched the hearts of Bihar’s people. Fatigue with Nitish Kumar’s 15-year long rule and his government’s repeated betrayal of promises are fuelling a search for an alternative.
On the other side, the JDU-BJP alliance supplemented by smaller parties like Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and Hindusthani Awam Morcha (HAM), has led a lack-lustre campaign despite BJP bigwigs from Prime Minister Modi downwards holding rallies in the state.
Also read: Bihar Elections: Why Jobs Have Become the Key Issue
After hurriedly announcing that his alliance, if re-elected, would provide 19 lakh jobs – an obvious counter to the Grand Alliance’s popular promise of 10 lakh government jobs – Nitish Kumar has been crudely dismissive of the claims of providing jobs. PM Modi, on the other hand, has not even mentioned jobs in the three days he has spent addressing a series of rallies in Bihar.
JDU and BJP cadres are dispirited and flagging, with many instances of BJP workers covertly working against JDU candidates being reported. In some constituencies, BJP rebels are in the fray under Chirag Paswan led Lok Janshakti Party tickets and they are drawing away the BJP core base from the official candidates.
This internal strife and lack of energy has become clear to the people as well, lending wings to the perception that the incumbent alliance is on its way out.
(Mohd. Imran Khan and Tarique Anwar contributed reporting from Bihar)