Modi’s future linked to Bihar polls
The Narendra Modi government’s inability to provide visible signs of the promised land of development has made it imperative nay compulsory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win the Bihar assembly elections this winter. If it stumbles, then the tacit belief that the so-called Modi wave is receding fast will gain momentum, especially in the aftermath of the party’s extremely dismal performance in Delhi earlier this year. An indication that the Modi wave may be receding faster than this year’s oncoming monsoons was available during the Bihar by-elections in August last year. This was when the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Janata Dal (United) alliance won six of the ten seats it contested, with the BJP winning the other four.
This dramatic turnaround in the RJD-Janata Dal (United)’s fortunes underlined a dramatic change in the mood of the voters from the time of the general election in May, 2014, when the BJP won 22 of the 40 parliamentary seats and its allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won six and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) three. Of the remaining nine seats, RJD won seven and the Janata Dal (United) two. A continuation of the by-election trend will have severe political ramifications for the Modi government. As things stand, the government is under threat from a rejuvenated Rahul Gandhi and his ceaseless focus on all those who have a long list of grievances– farmers, ex-servicemen, middle class householders, fishermen from Kerala, West Bengal jute workers, NGOs, etc. A setback for the BJP in Bihar will enable Rahul to step up his offensive with greater zeal. For Modi, the failure to beat his “secular” opponents will perpetuate the notion that nothing is happening on the development front. It is not just anti-BJP groups which will be enthused if this happens.
Even those in the saffron brotherhood, who believe that Modi has ignored the “core” Hindutva issues, will redouble their criticism of the government on the lines of what BJP MPs Vinay Katiyar and Sakshi Maharaj, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena have already said on the Ram temple issue. All these statements were made, despite Amit Shah’s plea that the BJP lacks the requisite numbers in Parliament to fulfill these demands. Bihar, therefore, presents a must-win situation for Modi. It is only a clear victory over the RJD, Janata Dal (United) and others, which will enable the prime minister to put the Delhi debacle behind him and focus on the unfulfilled economic agenda.
The BJP’s only hope is that the old enmity between the RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Janata Dal (United)’s Nitish Kumar will ultimately scuttle their present last-minute attempts at presenting a united front. All that has also changed with the announcement on Monday that Nitish Kumar will lead an anti-BJP coalition for this year’s Bihar Assembly elections. After long deliberations with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the RJD chief came on board.
Earlier, the differences between the two had temporarily receded into the background in the wake of the attempts to cobble together a so-called Janata “Parivar” comprising some remnants of the old Janata Party of 1977 and the Janata Dal of 1989.
The first spokes in its wheel were inserted by the Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav who argued that his party will suffer more than the others by merging its identity in the new outfit. It will be a “death warrant” for the Samajwadi Party, he said. However, an informal alliance can still take to the air if the RJD and the Janata Dal (United) can arrive at a seat-sharing arrangement, for which a committee is being set up. The real obstacle on the road has been cleared by Monday’s announcement, where Nitish Kumar’s name was accepted as the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate in Bihar.
While the BJP has conceded that the Janata “Parivar” will pose a major challenge, it must be hoping against hope that the old differences between Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar cannot be kept suppressed for too long. The possibility of such a situation has what allowed the Congress to try and get its foot in the secular door even if the party is a fading force in the state.
The first shot was fired by Rahul Gandhi who expressed his preference for an alliance of his party with the Janata Dal (United) rather than with the RJD. It may be recalled that the Congress’s crown prince had torn up an ordinance brought by his own party’s government in 2013, which had intended to save Lalu Yadav by negating a Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted legislators.
Although the RJD leader has been a longstanding supporter of the Congress, and particularly of Sonia Gandhi, since he “stood by her all along”, her son is apparently put off by Lalu Yadav’s unflattering image due to the fodder scam.It is too early say whether Rahul Gandhi will have his way or whether the RJD and the Janata Dal (United) will remain together in the foreseeable future. But, for both the BJP and its adversaries, the Bihar polls will be a life-and-death affair, according to LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan. IPA