The two northern states — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — have a lot to share and learn from each other now that the new partners in power, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, will get down to business.
Since celebrations started in Bihar, many have been describing their bonhomie as ‘short-lived’, quoting the collapse of a similar alliance in UP way back in 1993.
A recap: Puncturing the Ram temple hype, the founder-presidents of 1992-born Samajwadi Party and 1984-born Bahujan Samaj Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kanshi Ram, had entered into an electoral alliance and formed the government in 1993 with outside support of the Congress. Those were the days when Sri Ram slogans were heard in the lanes and bylanes of the country.
Mayawati had then said, “We have come together with a definite purpose of uniting the Bahujan Samaj under the leadership of a person born in the Samaj.” Mulayam became the chief minister and Mayawati super chief minister.
Although still the single largest party, the BJP shivered and shuddered. After the demolition of the disputed shrine in the temple city, it had become a political untouchable failing to get support from any other political group.
By mid-1995, Mulayam and Mayawati had turned into sworn enemies. The government collapsed after bitter brawls that plagued its 18 month-long tenure from December 1993 to June 1995.
The alliance had collapsed primarily due to three reasons. First, the personal ambitions of the leaders who represented their castes, the two power centres that watched out for the interests of their respective castes, and the failure of the political alliance to percolate down to the social levels. Pressure from their caste groups ripped apart the Bahujan Samaj.
Sociologist Dr Badri Narain said, “Though Bihar is not as Brahminical a state as Uttar Pradesh, Lalu and Nitish represent two ambitious and aggressive castes whose aspirations have soared after poll promises were made to them by their political icons. To avert any clash of interest, the leaders will have to take forward their political alliance to the social level. This transition will be slow as it is hard to build chemistry in warring caste groups like Kurmis and Yadavs than forming electoral alliance for power.”
Apparently there are lots that the two leaders in Bihar could pick from the failure of political alliances that are beset with social contradictions for the longevity of the government.
As for a lesson for UP, the return of Nitish for the third time in Bihar is enough to show his young counterpart in Uttar Pradesh that performance can often override public ambitions for a change every five years. Akhilesh has the right caste calculus but has to watch out for Mayawati, who stands energised after a poll setback to the BJP. She may find many of her leaders, who deserted the party ahead of the 2017 polls to ride the Modi wave, standing at her doors with an apology letter.