Janata Parivar: The third incarnation
The third edition of the political outfit of yore is likely to be presented very soon. It is being given finishing touches for its re-launch and is scheduled to be renamed on an auspicious occasion. The six parties which are re-uniting, have in principle agreed to unite in the backdrop of the National Democratic Alliance becoming stronger over the course of the last year. The new-found unity is perhaps due to the initiative shown by Lalu Prasad Yadav. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief has been desperately working for the last ten months with an aim to cobble together an effective political combination to reclaim his bastion of Bihar. Before we examine the prospects of the latest iteration, it would be worth our while to examine the interesting history of the Janata Parivar.
The first iteration of the third-front which was called the Janata Party was the by-product of the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. The main architect of that erstwhile party was Jayaprakash Narayan or JP as he was popularly known. This oddball combination of three National parties and other small parties resulted in the formation of the first Non-Congress Morarji Desai led-government. This was a direct result of the Janata Party securing a comfortable majority of 295 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. The second version of the third-front was a direct by-product of the Bofors kickback scandal. The BLD, Congress(S), Jan Morcha and others joined to form the Janata Dal. The party secured 114 seats in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. VP Singh became the Prime Minister with outside support of the BJP which had 85 seats and the Left parties which had 60 seats in a hung parliament.
The third incarnation is a combination of six state level parties, ironically active in only four states. The six parties have no base and influence in any state other than their limited pockets of influence. The Janata Dal (United) controlled by Nitish in Bihar, the Rashtriya Janata Dal headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav which is also incidentally a party from Bihar, the Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, the Indian National Lok Dal controlled by Om Prakash Chautala in Haryana, the Janata Dal(Secular) belonging to HD Deve Gowda of Karnataka and the defunct Samajwadi Janta Party formed by the Chadrashekar have joined hands to form a brand new political dispensation.
Out of these six parties, five are dynastic outfits whereas the Samajwadi Janata Party, presently headed by Kamal Morarka; is a sleeping and retired organisation. The party which was formed in 1990, was a splinter group of the Janata Dal. Devi Lal and Chandrashekhar were able to persuade around 60 Mps to desert their original party to help Chandrashekhar become Prime Minister with the outside support of the Congress. Chandrashekhar remained a lone MP of the party till his death in 2007. In other words, the merged Party which has yet to acquire a name, election symbol and a flag, can be termed as a limited liability company of the five satraps, the two being from the same state.
The new party headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav will have cumulative bench strength of 15 members in the Lok Sabha and 30 in the Rajya Sabha. The new party being the third major party in the country, may field its candidates in 158 Lok Sabha seats and 960 Assembly seats in the four states of its influence.
The new party would have to face its first litmus test in Bihar, which is going to elect its new assembly after a few months. In the 2014 general elections both the JD (U) and RJD won two seats with 11.07 and 20.46% votes respectively. The BJP despite a massive Modi-wave could win only 22 seats with 29.86 % of the votes. The results in the 2010 Assembly elections were totally different as the RJD had an alliance with the BJP at that point of time. The RJD parted ways when Modi was declared the PM claimant by the NDA. In the 2010 assembly elections, the RJD contested 168 seats and scored just 22 seats with a measly 18.84 % vote share whereas the JD (U) registered victory in 114 seats with 22.58 % of the polled votes.
The BJP managed to score 91 seats with 16.49% of the vote share. The political equations have taken a new turn after a novel experiment by Lalu in the by-elections to ten vacant seats in the Assembly. Lalu brought together the RJD, JD (U) and Congress to contest ten seats against the NDA candidates. This resulted in the unexpected miracle of the combine winning six seats with 45.6% and the NDA just four seats with 37.90 % of the vote share.
This stimulated Lalu to burn the midnight oil to re-unite the erstwhile third-front Parivar. A stellar performance of the new combination will depend upon the coordination between the cadres of the RJD and JD (U), which seems unlikely to happen.
The next stern test of the combine will be in Uttar Pradesh during the 2017 Assembly elections. The Mulayam led Samajwadi outfit scored just five seats, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, all winners being from the Yadav family. The state may witness a close multi-cornered contest. The JD(S) in Karnataka will face Assembly elections as late as 2018. The party has two Lok Sabha members and 40 members in the Assembly. The outcome in UP and Karnataka would depend upon the effectiveness of the merged party and its collective political health.