Politics has taken an interesting turn in Bihar, where arch rivals Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar are sailing in the same boat. The BJP’s massive win at the national, as also at the state-level has jolted Bihar politics and its first fallout was Nitish Kumar stepping down from the chief minister’s post. The next was the swearing-in of Jitan Ram Manjhi as the new CM. It seems that Nitish had already prepared a plan of action in advance. In the process, he has also acquired a new political companion, with Lalu deciding to support the Manjhi Government during the confidence motion in the assembly.
Will the company last till the next assembly election, due in November next year? To get an answer to the question, one must see whether they are interested in forging an electoral alliance or not.
If we analyse their politics, neither of them is
interested in taking on the BJP electorally, because neither one is ready to lose his own ground. Lalu;s support to the Manjhi government is opportunistic and tactical. Though, his RJD has won four
seats and his UPA has succeeded in winning seven Lok Sabha seats, his wife and daughter have been defeated.
By supporting the Manjhi Government, Lalu is trying to achieve two political objectives. The first objective is to avoid assembly ellections till the Modi wave subsides and the second objective is
to send his wife to the Rajya Sabha with Nitish’s support. Three Rajya Sabha seats have fallen
vacant in Bihar because of the victory of Ram
Vilas Paswan, Ram Kripal Yadav and Rajiv Pratap Rudi in the Lok Sabha election. Interestingly, all
of them had won the 2010 biennial election.
Lalu’s eyes are fixed on one of the three seats, which can be grabbed only with the help of Nitish Kumar.
It is also a fact that when Lalu announced his support to the Manjhi government, the government already had a majority. With some vacancies, the effective strength of the assembly was 237 and with the support of the four Congress, lone CPI and two Independent legislators, the Manjhi government was set to prove its majority. Hence Lalu’s support was almost unilateral. There was no desperation on the part of JD (U) to get his support. Some JD (U) leaders welcome the support, while some of them declared that they did not need that support.
There is no fear of immediate assembly elections and Lalu may claim that it has stalled the BJP from coming into power. Now the question is: Will he be able to achieve his objective of sending his wife to the Rajya Sabha and retain his Delhi bungalow? Will Nitish oblige him? The only purpose served by the continued support of Lalu to the Manjhi
government is the suppression of dissent from
ambitious JD (U) MLAs. But since the Manjhi
government is really not dependent on this
support, it is very likely that Nitish may not oblige Lalu or reciprocate by nominating Rabri Devi to the Rajya Sabha.
Neither Lalu nor Nitish will give up their claim to be the king of Bihar politics to prevent the BJP from coming into power. Both have been defeated, but neither is down. Lalu can take consolation from the fact that out of the five assembly seats which went in for bypolls, his RJD has won three. These results must make Lalu feel hopeful of a
revival in the assembly elections. Nitish, on the other hand, is still hopeful of staging a comeback on the basis of the performance of his government.
In fact, Nitish Kumar is the product of anti-Lalu politics. Lalu is a big factor in Bihar politics and there are strong anti-Lalu sentiments not only among the upper castes, but also among the weaker sections of society. If he allies with Lalu, the field would be open for the BJP to consolidate its support among anti-Lalu forces, which are stronger than pro-Lalu forces.
The BJP won in Bihar because of the Modi factor. His OBC status attracted OBC support in a big way, decimating both Lalu and Nitish, but assembly elections are held to elect the chief minister and in Bihar, the BJP has no face to match Nitish’s stature. That is the reason why Nitish would not like to align electorally with Lalu. In his company, Nitish stands to lose his shine.
He has already played his cards well. He has
resigned and did not give time to his detractors within and outside party to demand his resignation. With this move, he has thwarted the threat
of immediate assembly elections. He has even
installed his own party’s government, with a
comfortable majority. And significantly, by making Jitan Ram Manjhi as the CM, he has successfully tried to build his progressive image of being
Lalu Yadav is unlikely to accept Nitish as leader to defeat the BJP. Hence, the present honeymoon between the two Bihar strongmen may not translate into an electoral one.