Millennium Post

Avoid making a crooked twain

Definite indications are emerging that Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and arch-rival Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) would contest the Bihar state assembly polls scheduled for autumn 2015 together. Having faced near political obliteration, Lalu Prasad Yadav is ready to forgive and forget for a political harvest. Yadav, who ruled roost for a decade-and-half as a folklore hero has now for survival started to wear the psephologist’s cap and ferrets out statistics to justify the proposed alliance. ‘If the vote share of both RJD and JD(U) in the recent Parliamentary poll in the state is combined it will go up to 45 per cent which will be enough to defeat BJP,’ is Yadav’s pet refrain these days.

In a complete makeover from spitting venom at the drop of the names of Kumar, Yadav has now started to insist on the need to sit together and talk about the feasibility of an alliance. He believes that 25 years after it first hit the national scenario, the politics of Mandal, which united the communities listed under other backward classes, can still hold good to bring voters back to their fold. His premise is that the parties connected with the ‘Mandal’ concept of social justice will unite to counter the rise of the BJP. At his party’s foundation day function last week, Yadav made no qualms about taking Bihar back from the politics of development to the politics of caste. He said, ‘The Mandal Commission is a bomb which RJD workers should be ready to ignite.’ The question is will Nitish Kumar want to bite the bullet, the way it’s prepared in Yadav’s arsenal.

Having been the messiah of development politics in Bihar for the past 10 years, will it be possible for Nitish Kumar to embrace political obscurantism of open flaunting of caste combinations. Would he take the risk of reversing the political process of social adjustment back to social justice? While Lalu Prasad Yadav has been the icon of the politics of social justice, Kumar has been the mascot of the politics of social adjustment. Social justice is euphemism for the political empowerment of the numerically dominant intermediate caste categorised as other backward classes. After the implementation of the report of the OBC Commission headed by BP Mandal in 1990, which advised 27 per cent reservation in jobs for candidates from the OBC category, a wave of political polarisation followed leading to the rise of a new generation of leaders in the Hindi heartland states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Politics is an ongoing process and dissent started to grow in the social justice rank and file leading to the rise of another group under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. A suave politician favourably disposed towards the upper castes, at least overtly, Nitish Kumar unleashed a social process which came to be identified as social adjustment wherein for the first time upper-castes had no problem in accepting a leader from an OBC community as their chief ministerial candidate. In last 10 years Kumar has initiated economic activity that has spurred Bihar at every level. The rents and land costs in Bihar has risen manifold. This is some sign of the economic boom which the state is in the midst of. Another indicator is the fact that on an average Patna receives around 2,000 air travellers every day. While I do not seek to discount the role which caste combinations have played in the past in deciding the electoral results in the state but I seek to assert that the fear in the fall of the land prices would be a dominant agenda in the electoral battle of 2015 assembly polls, as it was in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The traditional voters of both the BJP and to some extent the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal are big landholders, the direct beneficiaries of the economic boom. Would they like to risk a fall in the land prices?

This creates a great dilemma for Nitish Kumar. Unlike Lalu Prasad Yadav, he doesn’t have the backing of a numerically strong community. What he has on his side is the track record of giving a clean and effective administration. To enter into an alliance with Yadav, Kumar would have to scale-down parameters of his politics. Kumar would find himself in company of the ilk of criminal-turned politicians like Sahibuddin, whose prosecution, imprisonment and political decimation Kumar had ensured. Would he agree to such an arrangement wherein he would stand to lose his credibility? If that happens, it would certainly lead to making of a twain which would be very crooked.
And this would happen at the cost of Nitish Kumar losing his stature and strength as a political leader. It would end him as a force as the people who voted for him in the past, have already indicated during the last Lok Sabha polls, were shifting loyalty to the BJP. Despite the acrimony with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which marked the campaign of the last Lok Sabha polls, Kumar must realise that his best bet is with the BJP and not any other outfit. Revival of the NDA in Bihar would end the politics of caste and also terror, unleashed by the likes of Lalu Yadav and his protégé Sahibuddin. In last 10 years Lalu’s brand of politics has been defeated twice and needs to be completely decimated. Nitish Kumar should not allow himself to be drowned along with his onetime rival. Instead of helping to make a crooked twain, Kumar should show pragmatism and ability to forgive and forget and return to the NDA.

The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor,
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