Uncertainty shadows the composition of the two main political alliances in Bihar with several parties still exploring their choices as the Election Commission on Friday announced the schedule for the assembly polls.
With the first of the three-phase elections to the 243-member assembly on October 28, the stand of the ruling National Democratic Alliance's Lok Janshakti Party remains unclear as it has indicated that it will fight on 143 seats, including those where another NDA member Janata Dal-United will contest, while extending support to Bharatiya Janata Party candidates.
Things appear messier still in the opposition alliance of Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress as two of their smaller allies, former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha-led Rashtriya Lok Samta Party and the Vikasheel Insan Party, are on the verge of quitting it.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has already quit the opposition and joined hands with JD-U president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Kushwaha, too, has come out against the RJD leadership with party sources saying that it is a matter of time when he will leave the opposition camp.
"We did everything possible to preserve the grand alliance but we're done in by the RJD's obstinacy. We will always remain committed to the causes we have espoused but we are not left with much hope in the so-called grand alliance which has already lost former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM to the NDA," RLSP leader Madhaw Anand had said on Thursday.
If the opposition camp is disjointed with serious differences among its partners on whether it should project Tejashwi Yadav as its chief ministerial candidate, something the RJD is pushing for, against the NDA's Nitish Kumar, the worsening equation between the JD-U and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP has made things trickier for the NDA.
Top BJP leaders, including its president J P Nadda, have asserted that all three NDA parties, the JD-U and the LJP besides the BJP, will fight the polls together but Chirag Paswan has so far remained noncommittal.
He has often taken swipe at Kumar's handling of a number of issues, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the migrant crisis, and has been pushing the BJP to take the driver's seat in the alliance and fight on more seats than the JD-U.
The JD-U has on its part often snubbed the LJP and said it has never entered into any alliance with Paswan's party.
It is for the BJP to address its concerns, including those over seat-sharing, it has said.
Voting for Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7 in one of the biggest elections globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by counting of votes on November 10, the Election Commission announced on Friday.