When will the Lalu Nitish alliance break? This is the dominant question that is making the rounds in newspaper offices and TV debates.
We at SocialChumbak feel that this unholy alliance will break before July end.
Let us now go back a few years and understand the origin of this tie-up between the Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
Actually, Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar belong to the same political legacy of Jaiprakash Narayan.
Jaiprakash Narayan or JP was a mass leader in the 70s and was instrumental in the downfall of Indira Gandhi. He spawned several student leaders like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, and even Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Over a period, these three leaders drifted away from one another and found their own moorings.
According to some political commentators, Lalu and Nitish were never friends. At best, they were mutual props or fair weather friends.
When Lalu Prasad Yadav saw that RSS affiliated members of the Janata Party were challenging the socialist ideals, he along with Nitish Kumar broke away in Bihar.
That split, later on, laid the foundation of the Lalu Nitish alliance of 2015.
The nervous 1990s
In the early 1990s, both these leaders contested the Bihar elections together and won the largest number of seats. Lalu and Nitish formed the Bihar government together but this friendship did not long last.
In 1992, Nitish left the Lalu Sarkar because he suspected that Lalu was promoting Yadavas in government jobs. Nitish comes from another community and he felt that his community members were getting a raw deal.
Politics in India is largely about the advancement of benefits to your own community members.
In 1994, Nitish Kumar floated Samata Party along with veteran socialist, George Fernandes. The idea was to become a tough contender to Lalu who counted Muslims and Yadavs as his supporters.
Unfortunately, Nitish lost the 1995 polls but he had the political wisdom to join the BJP led National Democratic Alliance.
In 1996, Lalu Yadav was sentenced to jail by the courts in a corruption case. He had to leave the post of Chief Minister of Bihar on account of the sentencing but Lalu did something very clever.
He installed his wife, Rabri Devi as the Chief Minister and thus ensured that the real control of power lay in his hands. It was an ethically wrong move but who cares for ethics in India?
Meanwhile, the Congress party and Lalu had come together as part of a strategic alliance. Lalu had a very strong hold over the Muslims of Bihar and Congress wanted to benefit from this influence.
In 2000 Assembly elections, Lalu won Bihar once again. He was by now, the supreme leader in and of Bihar.
In these elections, Nitish’s Samata Party had performed miserably and it seemed that his political future was over.
The Lalu Nitish alliance of 1990 was a distant memory to many political observers. This tie-up was as good as dead, many had opined in the TV channels and newspaper columns.
There was a vast difference between the personalities of these two politicians. While many people saw Lalu as a corrupt politician, Nitish was perceived as an earnest and honest leader.
All this while, Nitish was busy creating a perfect image of himself in Bihar.
The gamble of Nitish finally paid off when the NDA won convincingly in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls.
In Bihar, the combination of Janata Dal (United) and the BJP won a total of 41 seats. The former party was led by Nitish Kumar.
Lalu and Congress together won just 8 seats and in terms of a combination, were way behind the JD(U) and BJP alliance.
Clearly, the average voter preferred Nitish and BJP over Lalu and his friends.
Everybody believed that the 2000 elections in Bihar would kick Lalu’s party out of power.
But, as we know the 2000 elections surprised everyone, including Lalu. His party alone bagged more than 50 % of the Bihar assembly elections!
Nitish’s party, the JD (U) could manage just 23 seats.
The rise and rise of Nitish Kumar
Meanwhile, Kumar had bagged the post of Railway minister in the BJP-led NDA government.
Being a Railway minister helps because this way you can please your voters by introducing new trains for them. It is a different matter whether these new trains make profits or losses.
Nitish used his position effectively by launching new trains from Bihar. He hoped to get political capital from these moves. Clearly, he was eyeing votes in the 2005 Bihar elections.
His time came in 2005 when the NDA swept the state polls in 2005 with a clear majority. In these elections, the NDA got 143 seats in a House of 242. Lalu and Congress together got just 63 seats.
Finally, Nitish Kumar had emerged as the undisputed leader in Bihar. He had to wait for 11 years to get his place under the sun.
The one striking feature of these elections was that the Biharis had rejected the UPA alliance in these state polls. The UPA had just won the 2004 Central elections with a clear majority.
Again in 2010
The NDA once again won the Bihar state assembly elections 5 years later under the leadership of Nitish Kumar. It seemed that the days of Lalu were well and truly over.
But there was some serious thinking going on within the BJP regarding its second straight loss in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
The party was considering leadership change in favor of someone who could deliver victory in the 2014 elections.
Lal Krishna Advani had failed in his job as the leader of the party and many BJP party men considered him to be a big obstacle in the run up to the 2014 polls.
Narendra Modi became the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP in June 2013. The party had to do soul -searching to find the best man for the job.
This exercise was purely an internal affair of the party but it seems Nitish Kumar did not like the outcome. It is not that he did not like Modi. Nitish Kumar simply did not digest that Modi was the best candidate for PM ship.
Perhaps Nitish thought that the NDA should have thought of him as the PM candidate. After all, he had led the NDA to victory twice in Bihar- one of the most politically crucial states of the country!
The rift between Nitish and the BJP continued to widen for much of 2013. Sometime in the middle of that year, the two parties parted ways after being in power for 8 years.
To be fair to the BJP, it was Nitish who left the NDA to form his own government.
Things were getting ripe for a potential Lalu Nitish alliance once again.
After Nitish left the NDA alliance, Lalu and Congress came up to him and offered their outside support to Nitish’s weak government.
Divided we fall
This time Nitish read the political situation when he decided to fight the 2014 Lok Sabha polls all alone. Lalu Yadav thought that an independent approach would work for him, but it didn’t for him either.
Both these parties lost heavily in these polls. Most of the seats went to the BJP. It was a defeat that Lalu and Nitish would not forget until 2015.
The Grand Lalu Nitish alliance of 2015
Both these leaders would have been fools if they hadn’t come together in 2015. It was logical that Nitish and Lalu would team up and face the 2015 Bihar polls together.
And they did come together, with Congress providing the props.
This three way tie up was promptly called Mahagathbandhan or the Grand Alliance by these parties. Feeling wronged, the BJP termed it as a coalition of thieves or the Mahathagbandhan.
BJP rightly felt bad because it had been edged out of the ruling coalition by Nitish Kumar without any fault of its. This alliance was opportunistic and did not have a moral force, according to the BJP.
This Mahagathbandhan won a majority of the seats in the Bihar assembly elections of 2015 and of course formed the government.
Surprisingly, the largest number of seats went to Lalu’s party. Nitish came a close second while the BJP lost a significant number of its seats.
Clearly, the Lalu Nitish alliance had won the popular approval in Bihar and people hardly cared about Lalu’s corruption.
But is it really the case?
Nitish is a seasoned politician and knows when it is time to switch sides. He is a survivor, so to say.
Many political commentators and other politicians believed that demonetization of the Rs. 500/ currency would prove to be a bad move.
They were proven wrong when the poll results of Uttar Pradesh came in the April of 2017. The Bhartiya Janata Party had won massively in that state and won other states also like Goa, and Manipur.
In the Delhi municipal polls, this party had defeated its arch rival, the Aam Admi Party with a massive margin.
It seems that Nitish has realized to come back to the NDA after these results. He has supported the BJP on demonetization and also said that he is not cut out for PM’s role.
Very importantly, Nitish Kumar has supported the BJP’s Presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovid. This despite the fact that his alliance partners are supporting Meira Kumar as President!
Does he feel that a large number of Bihar voters will vote for BJP is any elections were held now?
Does Nitish feel that Lalu has outlived his utility in Bihar?
What is the reason that just after 2 years of its coming, the Lalu Nitish alliance is in trouble once again?
What are the supposed reasons?
- There are reports that Lalu had offered to help the BJP in Bihar if the latter helped Lalu and his sons in some new corruption cases. Somehow, Nitish got to know the game plan and is now planning to walk out of the alliance with Lalu.
- The second reason could be that Lalu is more of a liability rather than an asset when it comes to governing Bihar. Yadav and his sons are exerting an enormous amount of pressure on Nitish to help their constituencies of Yadavas and Muslims.
- Does Nitish Kumar realize that opposing BJP mindlessly is a bad strategy and that Bihar would suffer?
- Many journalists believe that he wants to protect his image as a clean guy and continues association with the corrupt RJD members may spoil it.
It should be note that in the last 3- 4 months, some government agencies have caught Lalu and his son, Tejaswi in several corruption cases.
The next steps
What can be the next steps of Lalu to save his alliance with Nitish? Will he poach some members of the JD (U) to protect his government?
Will Nitish fire Tejashwi Yadav and force Lalu to walk out of this unholy alliance?
What if Lalu offers his son’s resignation on the condition that the RJD stays put in the alliance?
And you never know that Nitish and Congress can form the government while the RJD offers support from the outside.
Whatever be the outcome, the ultimate loser will be Bihar and the Biharis.
We, at Socialchumbak, hope that Lalu, Nitish and the BJP should come together and remove the air of uncertainty that has enveloped Bihar.
Let Bihar achieve its greatness once again.