After Maharashtra, will JD(U), RJD join hands to oust BJP?

Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar
Prior to joining the NDA, the Nitish Kumar-led JDU was with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD | PTI File

Maharashtra is done and dusted! Will Bihar be next to challenge the “all-powerful” BJP duo Narendra Modi and Amit Shah?

The million dollar question is being hotly debated in the political circles of Bihar following a revelation by a senior RJD leader and former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may return to the Lalu Prasad Yadav camp once again.

The two parties, the Janata Dal United (JDU) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), are no stranger to each other. Prior to joining the NDA, the Nitish-led JDU was with Yadav’s RJD. It was with RJD’s support Nitish had won the 2015 assembly elections in Bihar, but later broke alliance and formed his new government with the support of BJP.

Also read | JD(U) pushes for ‘proportionate representation’ in Cabinet

“The BJP wants to politically finish Nitish Kumar and he has no other option left. One should not be surprised if he joins hands with Lalu ji again,” Singh, who is also the RJD vice-president, told the media on Saturday (November 30).

Singh, who is considered to be very close to Yadav, further claimed the back channel talks between the two parties has already started to discuss the alliance formula. “RJD never had any reservation with Nitish before and neither does it have any today,” Singh asserted.

What has further given credence to the speculation is that the JD(U) too has not rebutted the “observation” of the RJD leader. While the party claimed the NDA is intact, at the same time it added nothing is permanent in politics.

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“Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is a senior RJD leader and I have nothing to comment on his statement. But it is also true that no one knows the future. Anything can happen in politics,” JD(U) spokesperson Ram Lakhan Ram Raman replied on being asked about Singh’s remark.

A top political expert too said politics, of late, has become a way of “convenience” and hence, the degree of unpredictability has increased by several folds.

“Politics has undergone a complete change in recent months. Now, no one can predict who goes where as political morality has simply gone to the winds,” commented political expert Prof DM Diwakar. According to him, politicians are now creating poll slogans as per convenience, and corruption and morality have become mere excuses.

Also read | Once a potential rival to Modi, why Nitish now strives to keep his CMship intact

Whatever may be the fact but it is also a reality that Chief Minister Nitish has been facing complete isolation in the NDA right now — a kind of situation never witnessed in the past. Although he had returned to the NDA camp with much fanfare in July, 2017, the kind of treatment he expected from the BJP goes totally missing now.

Sources close to him say the chief minister was hopeful of getting a top position in the NDA — such as that of the coalition convener — given the way the he had brought the BJP to power from backdoor barely 20 months after the latter faced a humiliating defeat in the 2015 assembly elections at the hands of the grand alliance, but the “cold treatment” he received latter has shattered his expectations.

The isolation Nitish has been facing can be gauged from the fact that the BJP chose to go alone in the ongoing Jharkhand assembly elections, outright rejecting an alliance offer from the JD(U). This has forced the JD(U) too to fight the polls alone there this time. It may be noted the BJP had contested the Jharkhand polls in alliance with the JD(U) in 2005 and 2009, and both the partners had even stayed in power together in the state.

Also read | Cracks widen in JD(U)-BJP ties as Nitish goes after Sangh in Bihar

Likewise, the JD(U) was not given due representation in the Narendra Modi government although both the partners had won almost equal number of Lok Sabha seats in Bihar this year. The BJP, which won all 17 seats it contested in Bihar as part of the seat sharing deal with ally JD(U), got four leaders from the state in the Modi cabinet. Contrastingly, the JD(U) has no representation in the union cabinet despite winning 16, only one seat less than that of BJP. During the cabinet formation, JD(U) was offered one berth in the cabinet which it had refused.

At the same time, a section of BJP leaders have launched a stained campaign in Bihar, suggesting the chief minister to shift to national politics and offer his throne to the BJP. Although BJP chief Amit Shah later announced that NDA would go to polls under the leadership of Nitish, the JD(U) is not convinced given how BJP has been treating its allies of late.

Also read | How Bihar’s turnaround hero Nitish Kumar lost all his aura

The prevailing apprehension in the JD(U) camp is that the BJP may demand for contesting elections on equal number of assembly seats in Bihar, like it did during the Lok Sabha elections, when it even offered the five seats it had won to the JD(U).

Since the 2005 elections, when the NDA first came to power in Bihar, the JD(U) has been getting the lion’s share of seats, thus keeping the post of the chief minister secured for itself. However, now the JD(U) is worried if the two parties contest from an equal number of seats and the BJP performs better, it may lose the top post.

And if that happens, it would mean the political end of Nitish since his party’s base is limited only to Bihar. Although he has been constantly trying to expand it beyond Bihar, he is yet to taste success in this efforts.