End of a chapter in Indian politics
With the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar having informed the Governor that the Janata Dal (United) ’s alliance in the state with the Bharatiya Janata Party was over and that it was no longer a part of the National Democratic Party, a significant political development has taken place. A brief chapter in contemporary politics, troubled towards the end, has closed though it speaks volumes of the maturity in the ties between the two parties that the alliance persisted for so long. Yet electoral calculations and a breakdown in communications have meant a parting of ways. The split, as it ends the nearly two-decade old alliance that was a strength of the NDA coalition at the Centre, can have significant political ramifications for Bihar and beyond. The issue of Narendra Modi had gained importance within the JD(U), with Nitish Kumar, having long threatened to part ways if the Gujarat chief minister was projected by the BJP as a prime ministerial candidate. Though Modi has only been appointed as the BJP’s campaign manager, the position has been perceived as a key leadership one and a stepping stone to that of the prime ministerial candidate and thus a sufficient reason for the JD(U) to severe its connection with the NDA. The JD(U) had been worried about a possible loss of Muslim votes to the RJD and the Congress, which it now hopes to consolidate.
The BJP, at the very least, is now looking at the 2014 elections to the Lok Sabha and the split, if it persists, means that the BJP loses a vital ally that had brought it 20 members of Parliament. The NDA, has already lost the BJD earlier because of differences over the BJP’s adherence to a hardcore ideological line in Odisha. The loss of the JD(U) now leaves it only with the Shiv Sena and the Akalis and it is thus weakened. Thus, despite the BJP cadre’s enthusiasm for Modi, he and they will have to deliver an extraordinary performance in 2014 if BJP has to achieve a decisive position in the Lok Sabha. While the JD(U)’s move does give the talk of a federal front a shot in the arm, with Nitish Kumar likely to stay away from the UPA because of its dismal performance, the parties must consider the experience of previous elections: whenever the opposition has been divided, the Congress has benefited.