The filing of nomination papers for the Assembly elections in Bihar began on Thursday though suspense continued over the seat-sharing formula among the two major alliances in the state -- the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan).
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) which is part of the NDA is posing a hurdle to seat-sharing in the alliance. On the other hand the RJD, the major party in the Grand Alliance, is not able or is unwilling to fulfil the demand of the Congress in the distribution of seats in the Mahagathbandhan.
For the last three decades, the regional parties have been supporting the national parties to come to power in Bihar. In such a situation the national parties are ready to keep the smaller and regional parties in good humour.
According to official data both the national parties, the BJP and the Congress, have not been able to cross the 100-seat mark in any Assembly election in Bihar since 1990.
During the last Bihar Assembly election in 2015, the Congress could be part of the government only with the help of both the Janata Dal United and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Following the JD-U's exit from the Opposition Grand Alliance, JD-U supremo Nitish Kumar formed the government with the help of the BJP.
In the 2015 Assembly polls, the Congress had to remain content with 27 seats while the BJP won only 53 seats.
Looking at the 2010 Bihar Assembly election results, the BJP had the support of the JD-U as an alliance partner with the JD-U bagging 115 seats and the BJP 91 to hold the reins of Bihar.
The same political scenario was there in the 2005 Assembly elections, too, where the BJP came to power with the support of the JD-U.
In the 2000 Bihar state polls, the RJD came to power by registering a win on more than half of the 243 assembly seats. In the 1995 Bihar Assembly elections, the Congress won only 29 seats while the BJP got 41. Earlier, in the 1990 Assembly polls both the national parties had to settle for less than 100 seats each.
Political critic Santosh Singh says it was during the 1989 Bhagalpur riots that the last nail was driven in the coffin of the Congress as the minorities were enraged by the riots. At that time, the BJP was just coming into its own in Bihar.
The Congress has since been on the 'backfoot' while the BJP though in power at the Centre continues playing second fiddle to the JD-U in Bihar, adds Singh.
"Last year the NDA won 39 of 40 seats in the Lok Sabha elections from Bihar in which 17 BJP candidates were fielded and all emerged victorious. Despite this the BJP dare not contest the Bihar assembly elections on its own this year," Singh said.
If the NDA alliance partners -- the JD-U and the BJP -- contest on an equal number of seats in this election, it will be interesting to see if a national party like the BJP can consolidate its position in Bihar, Singh added.
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