The debate after the split between the JD(U) and BJP has swung to the possible next move of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar regarding the formation of the third front or the federal front.
Trinamool leader and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee had broached the idea to Kumar and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik, and the effort has met with the approval of Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu and even UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, a Samajwadi Party leader.
However, the problem with this disparate group starts with the egos of the personalities involved, besides the divergent political views and stands on virtually every national issue. Neither the Left, whose rival is Banerjee, nor the RJD, which is battling Kumar in Bihar, can have any truck with such a front, which is a dampener.
However, poll surveys by various networks do suggest the possibility of a third front that could get as many seats in the Lok Sabha elections as the Congress or the BJP, thus creating conditions for a hung parliament. That boosts the chances of a third front government, like the one in 1996-98, maybe supported by one of the two big parties.
The split in the NDA means the BJP will have the elbowroom to woo the upper castes in Bihar. But it is debatable whether an upper caste group in the state, where subnationality is not an issue, can force other castes, irrespective of political leanings, to lend shoulder to it.
Given Bihar’s political experience, other backward castes, extremely backward castes and not so political groups will go their separate ways.
But then, with the rank and file of the JD(U) thinking that a third front is a workable option, as Kumar has himself said, the party has the time to bounce back over the next one year and consolidate the backward-Muslim votes.