Anyone witness to the Indian political drama of past decades will have retained this abiding image: An assortment of regional party leaders sharing stage, with their arms raised in unison in a show of unity!
Leaders of the so called Third Front have popped up every now and then. But the resolve of unity has invariably evaporated rapidly — largely on account of the king-size egos of the regional satraps.
From the “anti-congressism” in the earlier decades of the country’s independence, Indian socialists have covered big ground by flirting with the Congress and the BJP on different occasions – mostly settling down as family and caste-centric feudal outfits.
Ahead of the April 28 meeting of the ‘Janata Parivar’ leaders to finalise the name, flag and symbol of the new merged entity that was recently announced, the question does not seem out of place: “Will the latest Janata version swiftly disappear from the political market once again?
In the run up to the important assembly elections of October-November in Bihar, the merger decision does make sense. At the peak of the Narendra Modi-led BJP surge in last year’s parliamentary election, Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) had been able to rustle up a combined vote share of 36.50% — as against the NDA’s vote share of 36.48%.
If the vote share of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are added to the Janata kitty, the “secular camp” can be seen emerging a clear winner—with a vote share of 46.28%.
But reasons that such calculations can be considered presumptuous are inherent in the unresolved issues of the ‘parivar’. For one, senior leaders of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi party — Akhilesh Yadav and Professor Ram Gopal Yadav in particular – are said to be yet un-reconciled to decision to unite.
As a logical fallout of the merger decision, Professor Ram Gopal Yadav will be called upon to relinquish his position as party leader in the Rajya Sabha to make way for JD (U) President Sharad Yadav. Similarly, Akhilkesh Yadav’s position as the undisputed heir of the socialist party in Uttar Pradesh might come up for challenge in future years. Are they willing to embrace the sacrifices that the merger decision entails?
Kumar’s candidature as the new formation’s chief ministerial candidate has been accepted, but emerging problems in Bihar are about seat distribution and cadre rivalries between the RJD and JD (U). As for the other ‘parivar’ constituents, the merger decision seems to hold no more than a symbolic value.