The Janata Dal (U) has landed itself in a crisis that it could have easily avoided in an election year. With just a few months to go for the polls, a rebellion, led by the chief minister at that, is likely to cause a vital chunk of support to be swept away from the party.
Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, whom the party wants to remove from office and have Nitish Kumar back, is a Dalit who has made no secret about espousing the community’s cause. While it is difficult to predict the outcome of his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it cannot be denied he has a Dalit following, which the Janata Dal (United) can ill-afford to ignore. After the disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha elections, Mr Kumar had stepped down as chief minister to devote himself to party work.
Now if the JD(U) leadership is of the view that governance in the state has suffered because of Mr Manjhi, it has a lot to answer for regarding the way the party chooses its chief ministers. Also, just a few months ago some MLAs of the party had been disqualified because of anti-party activities. All this goes to show Mr Kumar’s party work is far from over. Old rivalries within the party, such as the one between Mr Manjhi and minister Lallan Singh, are alive and well.
All this is not to deny the party had made a few good moves, one of which was Mr Kumar owning up moral responsibility for the rout. The second was to forge an understanding with Lalu Prasad’s RJD. This worked well for the alliance in the by-elections that followed, even though it might be legitimately asked if the alliance was to uphold the secular cause, why it took so long.
The third was to extend a helping hand to the formation of a wider Janata unity, which is very much in the works at this stage. The rebellion led by the likes of Sivanand Tiwari against Mr Kumar’s leadership died down and not much fuss was made after that. Besides this, part of the reason why the understanding between Mr Kumar and Mr Prasad was working well was that both were out of office.
With the recent developments, the job of the JD(U) and the RJD has become tougher in making a paradoxical alliance work. The two parties were fierce rivals during the 2010 elections, with both the leaders exchanging barbs and invective in public.
Its erstwhile alliance with the BJP and the subsequent rupture are something the JD(U) has still to answer for before the electorate. This has made the situation tricky for the RJD as well because it too has to justify its alliance with a party that was once in league with the BJP.
Hence the alliance has to stay intact if they do not want to give ground to the BJP. The Manjhi revolt has made this task all the more difficult.