Shifting political gears
Arun Srivastava discusses the political narrative of Bihar prior to the Lok Sabha polls
RJD leader Tejashvi Yadav dashing to Lucknow for meeting SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati and asserting that this alliance would wreck the ship of BJP in the 2019 elections has caused uneasiness in Congress. The Lucknow meetings have given rise to the feeling that Tejashvi was also not comfortable with Congress. It is believed that he has refrained from airing his views only for the sake of his father, who is in favour of a strong relationship with Congress.
Lalu's political perception is quite different from that of Mayawati. For him, no anti-BJP alliance can be floated without Congress. The reason for Mayawati to oppose Congress is that the young Dalit leaders as well are willing to share the dais with Congress. During the Gujarat assembly elections, Dalits extended complete support to Congress. Even in the elections to the three states of Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, they rallied behind Congress along with the upper caste people. Some observers look at this development as the revival of the old political equation of upper castes plus Dalits. In fact, the Congress leadership is quite pleased with this prospect.
But Mayawati is scared of this scenario. With emerging young Dalit leaders already rejecting her claim of being the Dalit icon, she is scared that an alliance with Congress would simply provide more credibility to Congress as representing Dalits. Notwithstanding Mayawati and Akhilesh burying the 25-year-old feud, the rank and file of both the parties and their support base at the village level are reluctant to embrace each other. The ground level situation is more akin to what prevails in Bihar. Apprehensions are that the younger leaders will play a crucial role in shifting this support base away from Mayawati.
Meanwhile, in a significant development, RJD national vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh on Wednesday said his party will contest the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with Congress in Bihar, and that the leader of UPA will be decided after the election results. Singh also went against Tejashvi's line on a reservation for upper castes. The party had to do a "balancing act" since it will field a few upper caste candidates in the Lok Sabha polls. In an about-turn on the party's stand on 10 per reservation for economically weaker sections in general category, Singh said it was a "mistake" for the party to vote against the Bill in Parliament. He said party chief Lalu Prasad has told him that the RJD has not been opposed to reservation for the poor among upper caste communities.
Singh also played down talks of any strained relation with Congress, especially after Tejashwi's meetings with Mayawati and Akhilesh. Some RJD leaders do not find any fault with Tejashvi calling on them as this may simply have been a courtesy call and nothing must be read between the lines.
Meanwhile, Nitish Kumar's revelation that Prashant Kishor, the number two in the party, will succeed him has raised eyebrows. Though a large section of the leaders is already enraged with him for "behaving like a senior leader" this is also being interpreted as Nitish's admission of defeat. As if this was not enough, Nitish also said he had inducted Kishor at the directive of BJP president Amit Shah, who is claimed to have called him twice asking for Kishor's induction.
Questions are being raised as to why a person like Nitish should serve subservient to Shah. There are suggestions that this may have been done since Kishor is a Brahmin, and by inducting him Nitish was bringing about a change in the political character of the party. He has come to the conclusion that in the present situation as the OBCs and Dalits are reluctant to vote for him, he must find a new pasture and that could be the upper caste. In comparison to any of the BJP leaders, he is the most accepted face amongst them. Besides, the urban middle class still likes him, notwithstanding the decline of his image of being an able administrator.
His decision has also shaken BJP. Some BJP leaders said Kishor "needed to be shown his place in the party". Sources maintain that BJP has taken the latest move of Nitish very seriously and sought clarification as to whether he really intends to lead NDA in Bihar.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)