Bihar’s opposition Grand Alliance is passing through really testing times these days. Formed just ahead of the 2015 Assembly elections to take on the mighty BJP, chief minister Nitish Kumar was the first to dump the Grand Alliance two years later. Post disastrous performance in the just-held Lok Sabha elections, the opposition alliance is now virtually gasping for breath with at least two political parties showing no interest in continuing with the coalition. The Grand Alliance was able to win just one Lok Sabha seat out of state’s total 40 seats.
The fate of the opposition alliance which made Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP bite the dust in the last Assembly polls appeared hanging in balance when none from the Congress party attended the meeting of the Grand Alliance convened by the RJD. The meeting had been convened at the residence of former chief minister Rabri Devi, wife of RJD president Lalu Prasad, to review the poll debacle. The Congress along with other parties was invited to attend the meeting held earlier this week.
However, representatives from the grand old party remained conspicuous by their absence. Although the state party chief minister Madan Mohan Jha claimed he was out of the station yet he didn’t depute anyone to represent the party at the meeting which was also an attempt to show solidarity in the aftermath of severest electoral reverses, informed sources said.
The development came amid demand from several top Congress leaders that it is time for the party to get off the crutches of the RJD it used in the past three decades and go it alone in the Assembly elections scheduled for next year. “The party must try to get off the crutches and contest elections alone that would strengthen the party base at the grass-root level,” former state Congress president Sadanand Singh said.
Another former president Anil Sharma too has made a similar demand. “I am of the opinion that the Congress could perform better if it decides to contest election alone, rather than allying with any party,” Sharma told the media. Sharma added he had been making this demand since 1998. Another senior leader and former Governor Nikhil Kumar blamed the faulty ticket distribution, lack of proper coordination among allies and missing bon homie among the partners behind the poor show and laid stress on fighting the elections alone.
Quite like the Congress, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi who heads the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) too skipped the RJD meet although he sent his son to represent the party. But in a fresh development, Manjhi has refused to accept the leadership of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. “We have not yet decided who will lead the Grand Alliance in the 2020 Assembly elections. He could be the leader of his party but he is not surely the leader of the Grand Alliance,” Manjhi has gone on record. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) too skipped the meeting.
The lone two allies which attended the meeting of the Grand Alliance were Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha and Vikashseel Insan Party (VIP) president Mukesh Sahni. But Congress’ absence was more telling in the sense that it was the second party after the RJD which had the significant vote share in the elections. While the RJD got 15.36 percent of vote share, Congress’ vote share remained at 7.70 percent. On the other hand, the vote share of the RLSP stood at a dismal 3.58 whereas two other Grand Alliance partners, HAM and VIP had the vote share much less than the NOTA (2.00 percent).
It’s the poor support base of the most Grand Alliance partners which has triggered a debate over the relevance of the alliance. Experts say although the opposition alliance looks very strong on paper but on the ground, it hardly matches the strength of the ruling NDA. This can very best be underlined from the fact that a regional party LJP headed by Ram Vilas Paswan had more vote share than a national player like the Congress.
The RJD, which headed the opposition alliance, had walked away with lion’s share of 19 seats whereas the Congress was spared nine seats. The other parties like the RLSP, HAM, VIP and the CPI-ML contested on five, three each and one seat respectively. Of them, it was only the Congress party which managed to open its account with one victory. Except for it, no party, including the RJD could win any seat in the elections. This was the first time in over two decades that Lalu Prasad’s RJD has no members to represent the party in the Lok Sabha.
So has the Grand Alliance really lost its relevance in Bihar?