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Bihar politics’ unholy alliance

Bihar politics’ unholy alliance
The miserable performance of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United) - in the national elections compelled both Kumar and Yadav to bury their differences and join hands after more than 20 years and take on the bigger enemy, the BJP, together. In a massive sweep in the general elections this time, the BJP pushed their parties to the fringes. Of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats, Lalu’s RJD managed just four and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) only two. The two stalwarts of Bihari politics are campaigning together for by-polls for 10 Assembly seats.

Lalu Prasad Yadav entered in student politics as General Secretary of the Patna University Students’ Union (PUSU) in 1970 and became its president in 1973. In 1974, he joined Bihar Movement, a student movement led by Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) against rising prices, corruption and unemployment. During the movement Lalu came close to JP and was nominated as Janata Party candidate during 1977 Lok Sabha elections from Chapra and  became one of the youngest members of the Indian Parliament at that time. During this period Lalu rose and by 1990 he represented the single largest castes of Yadav with 11.7 per cent of the state population and established himself as leader of lower castes. Muslims in Bihar on the other hand had traditionally served as a Congress (I) vote bank, but after the 1989 Bhagalpur violence, they shifted their loyalty to Lalu. In a span of 10 years, Lalu became a formidable force in Bihar state politics, known for his popularity among the Muslim and Yadav voters and was at the helm of Bihar politics for the next 15 years.

Like Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar also belongs to a socialist class of politicians. Nitish Kumar participated in Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement between 1974 and 1977, and was close to Satyendra Narayan Sinha, a prominent leader of the time. In the 1980 Bihar assembly elections, Kumar stood from Harnaut, which had a strong presence of his fellow Kurmis. He was first elected to the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1985 as an independent candidate. In 1987, he became the President of the Yuva Lok Dal. In 1989, he became the Secretary-General of the Janata Dal in Bihar.

He was also elected to the 9th Lok Sabha the same year. Nitish was aligned with Lalu Prasad Yadav for years before they parted ways and Samata Party came into existence in 1994. In November 2005, Nitish Kumar led the National Democratic Alliance to victory in the 2005 Bihar assembly elections bringing an end to the 15-year rule of the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal.

Development and corruption were the main issue on which Nitish decimated Lalu on his home turf and the victory marked the beginning of an era in Bihar politics free from the clutches of castes politics for the first time.

Nitish Kumar defended his decision to join hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav and said that an alliance of secular parties in Bihar would serve as a ‘medicine to neutralise the poison of communalism, BJP was spreading in the country after coming to power’. Yadav too said that the cause of defeating the BJP was well worth burying the hatchet.

Coming together of the top leadership of Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janta Dal United does not necessarily guarantee coming together of the workers of both the parties who have fiercely fought each other in the battle field of Bihar politics for the last two decades. Lalu has been synonymous with Bihar politics and he has also claimed it in no uncertain terms and referred himself to the famous Bollywood song that had Govinda.

The recent exit poll conducted by a leading news channel also suggests that the fight between Lalu Nitish and Congress combine is going to be tough against the BJP in the by poll.  But some sections of the political pundits suggest that the Modi wave shall continue in Bihar for a longer period of time and the Lalu Nitish combine will bite the dust at the poll hustling. The cadre of these parties is in no mood to forgive the bitter rivalry that existed for a such a long period of time and none is in the mood to easily give away the political space to the other in a hurry. The pundits also suggest that last two months of the Modi government will send signals of a strong and capable leadership at the Centre who is willing to work for the development of the state.

There is a strong argument advanced by some experts that coming together of Lalu and Nitish is an opportunist move and the concern for saving secularism and preventing the BJP from spreading venom and thus saving the society and nation from such disaster is a boggy and people of the state shall not fall in the trap of the two veterans which appears as an unholy alliance.

The author is an advocate
Vikas Gupta

Vikas Gupta

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