Sleeping — albeit uncomfortably — with the enemy seems to be the flavour of this poll season. Groups and individuals are desperately trying to live a bit longer by getting a party ticket, dumping logic, principles, obligations — and, of course — old comrades.
The movements are not new, but the volume of traffic is impressive this time. With old ties getting snapped and winnable candidates being increasingly in short supply, desertion and poaching seem to be the only way out.
With the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi on one side and the scattered opposition and an incumbency-hit Congress on the other, people who have been relevant in Indian politics even a few months ago are feeling unsure of themselves.
So, when LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan chose to embrace Modi after claiming — on several occasions — to have resigned from the NDA cabinet in protest against the 2002 Gujarat riots, no one was too surprised.
Because his old ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, is not in exactly a good shape. Prasad, however, feigned hurt and outrage, as the script demanded, putting Paswan down as “unprincipled” and “opportunistic”.
But Bihar CM and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar revealed: “He (Paswan) did not resign over the Gujarat riots, but only because then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee shifted him to a department he did not want.”
While from the BJP’s point of view, taking in house guests at random is aimed at capturing more seats for ‘Mission 272+’, individual deserters and deal-makers seem to make the moves only for self-preservation.
In Bihar, which has seen as many as 32 desertions — the highest so far — the most prominent has been that of Ram Kripal Yadav, the one-time closest aide of Prasad. Yadav joined Prasad’s bitter enemy, the BJP.
UP, too, is witnessing its share of party hopping. Congress MP and former CM Jagdambika Pal created a flutter by resigning and not revealing where he is headed to, while Congress veteran Rashid Masood joined the SP even as his nephew drifted to the Congress.
The most visible of the comebacks from political wilderness is, however, that of sacked SP leaders Amar Singh and Jaya Prada. They have joined Ajit Singh’s RLD.
Former party colleague Ramgopal Yadav tried to be unkind: “Zero plus zero is equal to zero.”
The Bihar story is still continuing. All the expelled JD(U) MPs — Capt Jainarain Nishad, Purnmasi Ram, Sushil Kumar Singh and Mangani Lal Mandal — found shelters in the BJP and the RJD.
Only, Shivanand Tiwary, Kumar’s estranged colleague who had been one of the complainants in the fodder scam case against Lalu Prasad, found Prasad to be still unforgiving. He did not get a parking space in the RJD.
In Jharkhand, Hemlal Murmu, JMM leader of four decades, also chose the BJP, while Subodh Kant Sahay, Congress general secretary who could be denied a ticket for Ranchi for his alleged role in the coal scam, opened up to the AJSU.
In MP, Rao Uday Pratap Singh and Choudhary Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi found the BJP to be a safe bet.
The same logic made former IAS officer Bhagirath Prasad joined the BJP after bagging a Congress ticket.
Among all these small victories, the BJP had a setback. Karuna Shukla, niece of former PM Vajpayee has joined the Congress.