Tucked away in a nondescript corner of Bihar’s capital is the Prabha-Jayaprakash Memorial Museum – a tribute to socialist stalwart Jayaprakash Narayan and his wife, Prabhavati Devi. The museum has a series of images that record JP’s remarkable life – as a freedom fighter; a peaceful revolutionary who ignited a movement which rattled Indira Gandhi; and a political leader who brought together non-Congress formations after the Emergency.
Nearly four decades after the death of Jayaprakash Narayan, better known as JP, his protégés are still battling it out for Bihar. As the politically significant eastern state gears up for one of its most important elections, the question everybody is asking is: will the alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar succeed in staving off the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or will the BJP lead a government in Bihar for the first time?
By 2005, Bihar was ready for change. And Nitish Kumar, in alliance with the BJP, created a “coalition of extremes” – the BJP brought in the dominant upper-castes; Nitish focused on the more excluded within marginalised groups. Combined with “development” – improvement in infrastructure and law and order – Nitish and the BJP won a second term in 2010.
It threw up new questions for Indian politics. Was the era of caste-based politics over? Could governance win elections? What was the right fusion? The rise of Narendra Modi strained the BJP’s alliance with Nitish. A triangular fight ensued in the Lok Sabha polls, but the BJP swept the election riding on the Modi wave.
The battle until 1990 was about displacing the Congress, and then revolved around who would end Lalu’s rule. But the big theme now is whether the BJP will succeed it maintaining the momentum of its spectacular Lok Sabha win. It won’t be long before we know.