Lalu’s loss is Nitish’s gain
In the last Bihar Assembly elections, too, his RJD and ally LJP of Ramvilas Paswan had bagged 25 percent of votes polled. With his conviction and disqualification from contesting an election, his RJD is bound to lose its shine. RJD is critically dependent on Lalu for its survival and the strongman of Bihar has no inheritor of his Dal. He will not allow any leader outside of his family to take over it and run it from behind, rather he would like his wife Rabri Devi to preside over it. When the party is in power, it is easier for a family member to lead it, but when it is in opposition, it is very difficult to run it.
Lalu was once a Backward Class leader and the messiah of the poor, but because of the lack of his vision, he fell into the trap of MY political equation. There was a time, when Janata Dal and its alliance had won 48 seats out of 54 in undivided Bihar under his leadership in 1991, but because of his weakness for his own caste men, he continued confining himself with his own caste and Muslims. This led his gradual decline. BJP seized the opportunities and used Nitish to erode non Yadav OBCs base of Lalu. Nitish extracted the full price from BJP for it and became Chief Minister of Bihar.
With Narendra Modi at its helm, BJP did not need Nitish at all. Nitish sensed this in advance and left BJP by opposing Narendra Modi’s elevation by it. It was a risky decision of Nitish. He was aware that though he talks a lot in favor of Muslims, they are largely behind Lalu Yadav and it was not easier to break the MY alliance.
But, with the conviction of Lalu, Nitish has good reason to celebrate. By consistently opposing Narendra Modi, he had endeared himself to Muslims. In fact the Muslims of Bihar were in dilemma, whether to shift their allegiance to Nitish or remain firm with Lalu. The conviction of Lalu will end their dilemma and they are likely to side with Nitish in a solid way. It was feared that by raking up Narendra Modi, Nitish was doing the job of Lalu, because Muslims were expected to polarize along the strongest pole. And their strongest pole was Lalu in Bihar before his conviction.
Congress is very weak in Bihar and its central leaders have paid no attention on its organization after the defeat in 2010 Bihar Assembly Elections. It was likely to enter into alliance with Lalu. After the breakup of Nitish from BJP, Congress has got another ally in him, but because of his support to Advani, Congress was not enthusiastic to have an alliance with him. But the scene has changed and it would like to have an alliance with Nitish Kumar in Bihar.
But after the nemesis of Lalu, Nitish may not oblige Congress. The first reason for it is that the oldest party of India has no base left in Bihar. JD(U) in Bihar is hardly going to gain from its alliance with Congress, except a psychological factor among Muslims that they are voting for not only a Dal, but an alliance led by Congress.
Nitish has gained a national stature and can play a major role by keeping him open to the possibility of a third front, if he gets sizable number of seats from Bihar. With the end of Lalu era, he can hope to fare better in a polarized Bihar, in which he will be one of the two poles. He will convert the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar into Modi vs. Nitish. With over 16 percent Muslim votes in Bihar in his favor, Nitish may give Modi a stiff fight in constituency after constituency. BJP was favorably placed in case of triangular contest, where even 30 to 32 percent popular votes yield good number of seats, but in a polarized situation, even 40 percent of popular votes do not bring victory. Hence BJP has a touch task now in Bihar and Nitish may use this new opportunity to influence the national politics by consolidating his position in Bihar.
Nitish has one problem that relates to the cases of fodder scam itself. A petitioner has moved in Ranchi Court asking for a direction to CBI to file an FIR against Nitish under the fodder scam. It is alleged that Nitish was funded by the fodder mafia in 1995 Assembly Election of Bihar. No one is sure about the outcome of the petition, but it gives certainly leverage to the ruling Congress to establish a grand alliance against BJP in Bihar consisting of Nitish, Lalu, Ramvilas Paswan and Congress itself. Lalu’s RJD is weak and its future seems to be dark, hence the RJD leader may be satisfied, if his family concerns are looked after by Congress and Nitish. Congress may also persuade Nitish not to be more ambitious and settle for the less to defeat BJP, which is surging ahead in Bihar at the moment under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
Nitish himself has refused to comment on the conviction of Lalu in fodder scam. This shows that in his excitement he does not want to hurt Lalu Yadav and if he finds Narendra Modi making waves in Bihar after his 27 October rally in Patna, he himself may not be averse to having a grand alliance against the saffron party in Bihar. IPA