The faultlines are inbuilt in such an alliance if past experience is anything to go by. But this has not stopped the ageing Turks as they are popularly called from trying to come together and form a front to take on the BJP. The JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav, the Samajwadi Janata Party’s Kamal Morarka, the INLD’s Dushyant Chautala, the JD(S)’ HD Deve Gowda, the RJD’s Lalu Prasad and the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav have decided to move towards forming a new version of the old Janata Party. But the problem here is that the very coming together of such disparate forces appears a precursor to their falling apart. For a start, most of them have lost their connect with today’s India. The prime architect of the formation Mulayam Singh Yadav and others are steeped in a feudal culture, which increasingly has fewer takers today. His ostentatious birthday party in which he greeted the public from an imported horse-drawn buggy and cut a 75-foot cake was evidence of this. The problem with such a formation also is that it has more generals than foot soldiers though for the moment it would seem that Mulayam will be the first among equals.
For the Samajwadi Party (SP) and JD(U), such a formation may make some sense in that it will help them consolidate their votes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar respectively. But the other parties have all been discredited electorally and can bring little to the table. The main glitch in a new version of the Janata Party is that it is bereft of ideas. The BJP has taken up the development plank, the Congress though reduced in stature still holds the socialism and secularism card. So, the new formation will have to come up with fresh and imaginative ideas if it wants to capture the attention of a largely youthful populace. In Uttar Pradesh, perhaps the SP could have done that given that Mulayam’s young son is in the saddle. But Yadav Sr had done nothing but try and hobble his son — not a very encouraging track record for someone who wants to challenge a resurgent BJP.
On the face of it, the merger move smacks of desperation, a gambit to stay relevant in a changing political environment. The egos of the leaders involved have in the past stood in the way of any possible cooperation among them and there is nothing to suggest that this has changed. The prospect of a strong formation which can take on the BJP on relevant socio-economic issues is a welcome one. But, it is highly doubtful if this patchwork political outfit can do the trick.