The multi phase elections in Bihar 2010, with Nitish Kumar the hot favorite

The northern Indian state of Bihar is going through an assembly election, spread over 6 phases. For many years, Bihar was considered as the basket case of India, with a very low rate of development, with high levels of illiteracy, a low development index, and high crime rates. In addition, caste tensions were at a feverish pitch, with ongoing fight happening between the Ranvir Sena (the representatives of the high caste landed folks, and the Maoist organizations who were fighting a class war and would fight against the zamindars). In the midst of all this, the Mandal based leadership of Laloo Yadav (followed by his wife, Rabri Devi) had formed a formidable political constituency and were in power for 15 years. In all this time, Bihar sunk even further down (and with many other states developing, the gap between these states and Bihar was much higher).
And then there was a change, with the JD(U) (with leaders such as Nitish Kumar, George Fernandes, and Sharad Yadav), which was in partnership with the BJP, promising a change in the leadership and direction of the state. They managed to break the stranglehold of the Laloo Prasad Yadav coalition, and took power. This was a time for Nitish Kumar to prove himself, and he set about trying to change things. How we has performed is something that the voters of the state will decide, but it is true that there are some achievements such as the arrest and prosecution of many criminals, and an enhanced level of development of the state (although after the time of Laloo Yadav, any level of development will be creditable).

In the meantime, there was also a change in other politics of the state, with a near wipeout of the Dalit ‘messiah’, Ram Vilas Paswan, with him not winning a single seat in the last Lok Sabha election of the state. And the Congress is on a mission to retain its leadership of the north Indian states (with their large number of Lok sabha seats making these states politically significant). One is not sure how successful this campaign by the Congress will be (with the campaign being the strategy of Rahul Gandhi, and supposed to take time, but the Congress is willing to wait), but it does mean that there will be some fragmentation of the votes all around.
This election is also a last ditch battle for Laloo Yadav to remain significant, since he has been ignored by the Congress in the center in this round of the UPA (after being a major constituent the last time around); the desperation is so evident that he was pushed into an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan, giving up far more seats than was expected by anyone. And then there is Nitish Kumar, who strides the state like a very tall leader, having pushed all his rivals in the party into insignificance, and even managing to push the BJP into doing what he wants (which means no visits by Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi to the state for campaigning, since they are anathema to the Muslims, which are otherwise inclined to support the JD(U). What do we expect from these elections ? A reinforcement of the win of the ruling combination with another run in the state.

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