With the Election Commission indicating that the Assembly elections in Bihar will be in September-October this year, there is heightened activity on the marriage of convenience being contemplated between six parties which once were part of the Janata Party government at the Centre.
Basically, in Bihar there are only the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav that hold the stakes. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has no direct stakes in Bihar while the other three —former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda led Janata Dal (Secular), Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP) are virtually unknown in Bihar and have pockets of influence in only the states from which they originate.
There is indeed little love lost between the JD (U) and RJD and though they realize that they would be mauled by the BJP if they do not come together the real test will come when the seat-sharing talks get underway.
While suspicion against each other is simmering in the two parties, recently Lalu Yadav’s invitation to Nitish Kumar’s bete noire and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi to become part of the Janata Parivar disturbed Nitish a great deal. Even on seat sharing the initial sniping has begun.
Sensing the mood in the two camps in Bihar, the supremo of the proposed Janata Parivar, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has called a meeting of the six constituents tomorrow at which the roadblocks to the merger would be sought to be removed. Lalu’s overtures to Manjhi would also predictably lead to some discussion if not fireworks at the meeting.
However, all said and done if the Janata Parivar does become a reality or even if an electoral arrangement between Nitish and Lalu takes concrete shape, the two parties together could pose a stiff challenge to the BJP in the Assembly elections.
Data from the election commission shows that the combine of BJP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party(LJP) got 35.8% of the votes polled during the Lok Sabha elections last year.
The RJD and the Congress Party which fought the elections together got 20.1% and 8.4% of the votes respectively. JD (U) which fought the elections separately got 15.8% of the votes.
Considering the crucial nature of the Assembly polls, the index of opposition unity could well determine the ultimate outcome.