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As old warlords fight for survival

As old warlords fight for survival
The emergence of Narendra Modi as the prime minister and a national leader has changed the contours of Indian politics and it is a time of repositioning for the leaders of other parties to maintain their clout and relevance in the changed political scenario. Leaders of the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana are among those, who find themselves to be in wilderness after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

They were rejoicing at the reverses of BJP in by-elections, which were held in Uttarakhand, Bihar and UP just after the Lok Sabha elections. Most of the seats had fallen vacant because of the victory of BJP MLAs in Lok Sabha elections and in subsequent by-elections, BJP failed to retain most of those seats. This gave reasons to cheer to leaders like Lalu, Nitish and Mulayam. But after the assembly elections of Haryana and Maharashtra, the picture has turned gloomy again for them and they are now convinced that this Modi phenomenon is to stay for now.

This realisation has made the leaders of these three states of UP, Bihar and Haryana to talk about the unity of the Janata Dal Parivar. The leaders, who are trying to forge unity to face forces of marginalisation, have been in the party named Janata Dal, which itself was the result of unification of many parties in 1988-89. Even earlier, they were together in 1977 in its earlier avatar named Janata Party. Naturally these leaders are hoping to recreate a new Janata experiment so as to make themselves relevant in the changed political scenario.

The question is will they succeed in repeating the experiment of 1977 or 1989. The answer is negative. The reason is simple. In 1977, almost all opposition parties of Northern India (except left) have joined hands to form Janata Party and it attracted leaders from almost all parts of India.
The unification was preceded by emergency and a strong movement against Indira Gandhi’s rule. The move was succeeded because it had backing of a big movement. Once, Janata Party came to power, the constituent parties started colliding among themselves and that was the end of the Janata Party experiment.

In 1988-89, India witnessed Janata Dal experiment. The experiment was not as huge as what it was in 1977. Some parties merged themselves as Janata Dal. Janata Dal entered into alliance with BJP in one side and left on the other. After election, Janata Dal emerged as the second largest party after Congress, which had failed to get majority. The Dal formed government with the outside support of BJP and left parties. Again Janata Dal cracked from inside and it started splitting.

We have over a dozen fragments of Janata Dal, which was once led by V P Singh. In fact the present exercise to forge unity is confined only among these fragments. Out of these fragments Biju Janata Dal is in power in Odisha and Samajwadi Party is in Uttar Pradesh.

The reasons for failures of the experiments are many. First of all, the leaders lack a valid issue to unite against Modi. In 1977 Janata Party was formed after unification to save democracy, which had been endangered by the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. In 1988-89 the unification took place with the slogan of movement against corruption.

Corruption was the main issue agitating the minds of people at that time. Now the issue raised by leaders like Nitish and Lalu is communalism. They had raised this issue in the last Lok Sabha election as well, but they could not succeed preventing BJP from coming to power.

Now they think that their combined strength will defeat Narendra Modi. This issue is not going to click in the caste sensitive states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, because people have understood that by raising the bogey of communalism, they are not promoting any noble cause, but trying to get Muslim votes only.

These leaders acquire their political clout because of being OBCs and they have fanned caste politics to gain power. Narendra Modi is also an OBC and BJP under him is reaping the harvest.

They get power with the help of OBC votes, but serve the interests of their own castes and Muslims. These feelings have reached the weaker sections of OBCs. Hence, the slogan of secularism only furthered the cause of BJP, which got votes of weaker OBCs in the last Lok Sabha election. This happened in Haryana too. That is the single most important reason for BJP in getting the majority in Haryana election.

Hence the issue of communalism vouched by them to unite against Modi I may not fully work in their favour. The success of Lalu- Nitish combine in Bihar by- elections should not be taken seriously, because a sizable number of people vote for party in power in such elections. The second reason for the likely failure of the experiment is the credibility of these leaders. They no longer inspire people by their speech, because they have failed to meet the expectations of their supporters and sympathisers. They are forging unity to defeat Modi, but they have explanation why they had separated from each other causing multiple fragmentations of the Janata Dal, which is being claimed by them as their parivar (family). People have come to know that they unite for their survival and divide to gain more plums of power.

Third reason is that they may talk of unity, but they are as disunited as before. Haryana Assembly election is the recent example. Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (U) was campaigning for the INLD (Indian National Lok Dal of Chautala) candidates and Rabri Devi of RJD was campaigning for Congress candidate Ajay Yadav, who happens to be the father in law of her daughter, though both claim to be in the same camp in Bihar now.

There is a history that whenever there is conflict between the collective interests and their personal interests, they choose personal interests to pursue. All Janata leaders have this weakness and all know that others would desert the unity or its talks, once their own personal interests are at stake. All of them are suspicious of one another on this count.

The fourth reason is the influence areas of these leaders. Nitish and Lalu have no influence outside Bihar. So they are not going to help Mulayam electorally in UP or Chautala in Haryana. Similarly, Mulayam is not going to help Lalu- Nitish getting more votes in Bihar. HD Deve Gowda has also joined the unity talks, but he is not going to benefit by this unity in Karnataka nor he is of any benefit to Hindi state leaders, so far as raising the vote percentage is concerned.

Hence, the unity moves of Janata Dal Parivar might continue for some time but it is difficult to finally form a cohesive party which will give electoral dividends.     
Upendra Prasad

Upendra Prasad

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