Downfall Of Grand Alliance In Bihar; BJP Emerged Victorious
The JD (U) that remained part of the BJP-led NDA for 17 long years had to sever its association with the BJP and the NDA as well in 2013
Photo Credit : PTI
Setting all speculation at rest, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party, Janta Dal (United) ultimately succumbed to the BJP juggernaut and walked out of much-acclaimed but short-lived Grand Alliance comprising the JDU, the RJD and the Congress. The BJP that he deserted two-and-a-half-years ago presumably to invoke his secular image among minorities, in particular, against a consensus to elevate Narendra Modi as a National leader is supposed to have made a remarkable achievement by winning back Nitish Kumar to the NDA fold. The question that has been baffling the mind of many is what political mileage has Nitish Kumar gained by revisiting his ‘non-secular’ stronghold?
Contrary to the belief that the partners of the JD (U)-RJD-Congress alliance that was forged to keep the BJP away from Bihar in the 2015 Assembly elections have their respective political compulsions to stay within the fold of the much-acclaimed Grand Alliance and cannot afford to survive separately against the juggernaut of the anti-UPA forces in the State, Nitish Kumar is believed to have accepted the virtual ‘subjugation’ of BJP under duress. In a sequel to successive raids by CBI, Income Tax and ED against Lalu Yadav and his family in corruption cases, Nitish Kumar had enough indication about the possible punitive action against him and his Government.
Although Nitish Kumar managed to hold on to power with the support of the BJP after breaking away from the alliance with the RJD and Congress, the party’s stalwarts -- including Sharad Yadav, Ali Anwar and Virendra Kumar – remain sceptical about their ability to sway the masses without the RJD support in the ensuing elections in the State. These restive leaders are said to be in touch with RJD and Congress and exploring possibilities to negotiate with the JDU legislators to defect from Nitish Kumar’s leadership. In a public statement, Anwar said: “While Nitish Kumar has been clear with his stand against corruption since the beginning but he also had another stand -- to fight against communalism. If we see any agreement with that on his part, then we have to take a decision.” Subsequently, Sharad Yadav met Rahul Gandhi in Delhi soon after Nitish Kumar was sworn in as Bihar CM in Patna.
The JD(U) had to, in fact, sever its alliance with the BJP and walk out of the NDA in 2013 after being felt subjugated to the BJP’s Central leadership and entered into alliance with RJD presumably with the avowed objective to use the latter’s clout to the hilt to rope in the masses of downtrodden in particular. On the other hand, in the light of the present political equation in the State, the RJD is potent enough to invoke its popular base, though it cannot stake claim to form an alternative Government even with the negligible numerical support from other UPA constituents. Likewise, the Congress is a frail reed to rely upon.
The JD (U) that remained part of the BJP-led NDA for 17 long years had to sever its association with the BJP and the NDA as well in 2013 in the backdrop of BJP’s decision in the Goa conclave to elevate Narendra Modi as the Chairman of BJP National Election Campaign Committee allegedly keeping the JD (U) in the dark. The JD (U) leadership including the then party supremo Sharad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar were opposed to Modi’s elevation.
It is believed that Nitish Kumar had wanted to be the NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Arun Jaitley was tasked to negotiate with JD (U) and Nitish Kumar to endorse the proposal for Modi’s elevation. But Jaitley failed to persuade Nitish Kumar to accept Modi’s candidature and he was left with no option except to remain absent from the most crucial Goa conclave ostensibly in order to maintain a neutral stand.
The infuriated JD (U) consequently resolved to end its 17-year old association with the BJP and NDA as well. Sharad Yadav resigned from the post of the NDA convener and preferred to form an alternative Government in Bihar with the support of four independent MLAs. Although Yadav had claimed that there was a clash of opinions between the JD (U) and the BJP as the reason behind the decision, Nitish Kumar was articulate in getting his views across while talking to the media. “We cannot compromise with our basic principles. We are not worried about the consequences. As long as the alliance was Bihar-centric, there was no problem. But we had no alternative now. We are not responsible. We were forced to take this decision,” Nitish Kumar had said.
He also said: “The BJP is going through a new phase. As long as there was no external interference in the Bihar alliance, it ran smoothly. Problems began whenever there was external interference.”
The pertinent question is: Why is the JD (U) opposed to Narendra Modi? If different studies of the caste-politics of Bihar are to be believed, the sizeable anti-Modi Muslim vote-bank of the JD (U) in the state is the sole reason for keeping Modi at a distance. Studies reveal that Lalu Yadav and his RJD ruled the State for about two decades using his Yadav-Muslim formula. He had the en masse vote of Yadavs and Muslims. Even during rampant corruption and worst ever misrule under RJD dispensation in the State, the JD (U)-BJP alliance could bag merely 11 seats of the total 40 seats in 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
Incidentally, Nitish Kumar became Chief Minister of the State in 2005 by making dents in Yadav’s Muslim vote bank. Nitish Kumar divided the Muslims in the State into upper caste and lower caste vote banks. While Yadav kept on taking care of the upper caste Muslims – Ashraf -- by doling out lucrative posts and social status, Nitish Kumar achieved success by wooing lower caste of Muslims, the Pasmanda. In spite of being an ally of the BJP and a NDA partner, Nitish Kumar did not allow Modi to campaign in Bihar in fear of the possible protest from Muslims who were seen as virulent critics of Modi for the Godhra incident in Gujarat in 2002. The JD (U)-BJP alliance fared well -- ostensibly with the support of Muslims -- by winning 143 seats of the total 243 seats and Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister.
Subsequently, in the Lok Sabha elections and Assembly polls in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Nitish Kumar did not compromise with his anti-Modi stand. Modi was again not allowed to campaign in Bihar in the elections and Nitish Kumar reaped the electoral benefits again.
As per the chronological details available on different websites, NDA including JD (U) and BJP was formed in May 1998 with 13 constituent parties at that time with JD (U) president Sharad Yadav, as its convenor and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its chairman.
In 1999, BJP and JD (U), won 23 and 18 seats respectively, of the 54 seats in the then united Bihar.
On March 3, 2000, Nitish Kumar was appointed Chief Minister but resigned in seven days for want of a majority on the floor of the house.
In 2004, JD (U) and BJP won 6 and 5 Lok Sabha seats, respectively out of 40 seats in Bihar.
The Assembly polls of February 2005 witnessed a fractured mandate. JDU and BJP won 55 and 37 seats, respectively, in a house of 243. President’s Rule was imposed and subsequently polls were announced again due to the fractured mandate.
In November 2005 Assembly polls, the NDA emerged with a clear majority. JD (U) won 88 seats and BJP 55 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly. Nitish Kumar became the chief minister within the NDA fold.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA won 32 seats including 12 seats by JDU out of 40 seats. Modi was not allowed to campaign in Bihar.
In 2010 Assembly elections, the NDA won 115 state assembly seats and BJP 91 seats in the 243-member state assembly. Narendra Modi did not campaign in Bihar again.
On October 11, 2011, in a bid to claim his candidature for NDA’s Prime Ministerial face, LK Advani started a Jan Chetna Yatra from the native place of Lok Nayak Jay Prakash Narayan, Sitabdiara in Bihar, instead of Somnath in Gujarat. Nitish Kumar flagged it off.
In June 2012, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asked alliance partner BJP to name a prime ministerial candidate with secular credentials before the 2014 elections that sparked off widespread protests from the BJP leaders.
In November 2012, on the demise of Bihar BJP patriarch K.P Mishra, Modi airdashed to Patna but left without meeting any JD (U) leaders.
On December 26, 2012, barring Nitish Kumar, all NDA chief ministers attended the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi following his third consecutive win in Gujarat.
In April 2013, Janata Dal (U) at its national executive meeting opposed Narendra Modi's projection as the Prime Ministerial candidate citing his failure to check the post-Godhra riots. Nitish Kumar set a deadline for the BJP to decide on a secular prime ministerial candidate by December-end.
On June 9, 2013, ignoring JD (U) objections, Narendra Modi was made chairman of the BJP national campaign committee for the 2014 polls and it led to the worst ever face-off between JDU and BJP.
Although in subsequent elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014, NDA won 31 out of 40 seats and after parting ways with the BJP and walking out of NDA, the JDU was reduced to 2 seats only, in the Assembly elections of 2015, the Grand Alliance of JDU-RJD-Congress combine routed the BJP and its alliance and won 178 seats out of 243. A series of election rallies by Modi and continuous secret parleys and confabulations by BJP President Amit Shah during the electioneering did not work as the party had to eat humble pie bagging merely 58 seats.
To top it all, Muslims constituting about 20 per cent of the total population in the State and one of the deciding factors in Bihar elections are supposed to have started hating Modi since the Godhra incident in 2002, but it had hardly any impact on Bihar politics till Modi’s stature was elevated as a national leader in 2013. Since Modi is now at the helm of affairs, Muslims have reasons to weigh the pros and cons of their anti-Modi stance. However, Nitish Kumar failed to evolve an amicable solution to the crisis. But the BJP cashed-in on the situation to ensure a vertical split in the Grand Alliance by winning back the JD (U) to the NDA fold to reap electoral benefits in ensuing elections in the State. And, the RJD that made abortive attempts to survive the BJP’s well-hatched political intrigue has been left with no option except to await an opportune time with bated breath to settle its score -- albeit through an electoral battle.