The seat-sharing announcement by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (United) for the upcoming Bihar assembly elections shows that the alliance of the two rival parties has held despite all the misgivings over it. There were adequate reasons for such qualms, because these parties rest chiefly on the personal predilections of the leaders, and, until recently, it was nothing but the opposition to the Congress that united them.
It was apprehended that RJD president Lalu Prasad would not accept JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate of the alliance. But not only were all fears allayed, the alliance had a smooth seat-sharing arrangement with each party getting 100 seats to contest. Forty seats were offered to the Congress, which could not have asked for a better deal than that. It may be recalled that its alliance with the RJD fell through in 2009 because the Congress was given just four seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
Bihar now looks set for an evenly poised battle because the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a bloc of four outfits — the BJP, the Lok Janashakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan, the Hindustani Awam Morcha of Jitan Ram Manjhi and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Upendra Kushwaha. All these three personalities were at one time or the other either in the bailiwick of Mr Kumar or his ally. This could be a matter of strength for the NDA because it may then be able to strike at the base of the Nitish-Lalu combine in a more decisive manner. Moreover, the NDA has two Dalit stalwarts — Mr Paswan and Mr Manjhi — while the opposite camp has none worth the name. This sits well with the BJP’s current disposition because this is the first state that’s going to polls after the NDA government completed a year at the Centre.
The outcome of the Bihar elections will have huge implications. If the NDA wins, it will mean another vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his development platform. But if the people’s verdict goes in favour of the RJD-JD(U) alliance, it will mean a giant stride towards the broader Janata unity of six parties, and it will go to polls in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 on a far stronger footing. The Congress, on its part, has been judicious enough not to press its demands too far. Chances are it will do the same thing in UP too.