Millennium Post

Negativism of new Janata Front

The attempt by some of the losers from the last general election, such as Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar, among others, to form an alliance has a number of negative connotations. The most obvious is their blatant opportunism. None of them can claim to be close friends. Yet, they have now gathered under the same roof and are even holding hands, as HD Deve Gowda and Sharad Yadav did, in an unconvincing display of camaraderie.

Even if they know that a few will be fooled by their purported friendship, they are still banding together like drowning men clutching at straws. Having been sunk by the Modi wave, they evidently see no option but to seek each other’s company in a desperate attempt to stay politically relevant.

However, given their past mutual animosities, their present moment of expediency cannot be expected to achieve political rewards. As a result, the fate of their new outfit is unlikely to be any different from that of similar avatars in the past – the Janata Party of 1977-80 and the Janata Dal of 1989-90 – which collapsed in a heap.

Opportunism can pay, if only those indulging in it are few in number. The renewed alliance of the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is a case in point.  But, once the number of opportunists exceeds the critical limit of two or three, the unstable nature of their tie-up comes to the fore. Where the proposed new Janata outfit is concerned, instability is written into its composition because each constituent will tend to regard itself as a political entity of some consequence.

Thus, it is difficult to fathom the new found friendship that exists between Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad. It isn’t only personal egos that will act as barriers. The fact that some of the leaders have been inveterate opponents not so long ago can also lead to ruptures. For instance, Nitish Kumar will not find it easy to explain his new-found admiration for someone like Lalu Prasad, whom he accused of having run a “jungle raj” in Bihar for 15 long years.

The “jungle raj” appellation will also highlight another negative feature of the new combination. Among the leaders, only Nitish Kumar can claim to have a nuanced, sophisticated approach to governance. Others like Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad evidently regard their sojourns in power as a means to feed their own nests and serve their respective communities. Running an administration for the benefit of all is the least of their concerns.

Unsurprisingly Lalu Prasad’s years in power between 1990 and 2005, including a period when his wife was the proxy chief minister, was a disaster for Bihar. The state went to seed with not an iota of development, while  rampaging lawless elements ensured that no one dared to venture outside after sunset, especially in a countryside devoid of electricity. The only reason why Nitish Kumar’s party won in 2005 and 2010 was that he promised a respite from such appalling conditions, which made Bihar a byword for primitive backwardness and “Harrys”.  Biharis became objects of ridicule in New Delhi and elsewhere.

It is doubtful, therefore, if Nitish Kumar’s image will be burnished by his present association with his erstwhile opponent. Apart from the taint of opportunism, the Janata Dal (United) leader will also be accused of taking two steps back in the matter of retrieving Bihar’s prestige, which he has done to a considerable extent by rooting out lawlessness and focussing on development, including reviving the ancient Nalanda University. All that effort will now go down the drain as Nitish Kumar is seen marching hand-in-hand with Lalu Prasad.

Another unsavoury aspect of the new conglomerate is casteism, since this regressive feature of Indian society constitutes the electoral foundation of leaders like the two Yadavs of the Hindi belt,  Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad, and the currently incarcerated Jat from Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala.

Where Modi’s rise has been seen as a step towards replacing sectarianism with an emphasis on development, the new conglomerate cannot but give a boost to casteism. Consequently, such caste equations usually take recourse to strong-arm tactics because that is the only way in which the hegemony of the primus inter pares among castes has been traditionally established. Since Yadavs are regarded as the first among equals among the intermediate castes in the so-called cow belt, it is not surprising that their present rule in UP by the redoubtable combination of father, son, uncles and Azam Khan is associated with the free use of lathis and intemperate language.

Not unnaturally, their casteism went hand-in-glove with the rejection of English and computers, of which Mulayam Singh was the most fervent advocate. While these aversions have now been overcome, a preference for socialism remains an anachronism. Will such policies  be accepted, when the country is turning Right under Modi? IPA
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