Never before had the election result in a neighbouring state been so keenly watched as was the case on Saturday. The outcome of assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh attracted much interest here, not the least because of the impression it may impact the future course of politics in Bihar. and may lead to new political alignments.
Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi predicted a massive change in Bihar political scenario, in the wake of the BJP’s big win in UP where it was set, on Saturday, to form the next government. Some political pundits even speculated if this development would bring Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar closer to his former NDA ally.
Kumar’s JD (U) neither contested the UP polls, nor did it support any party or alliance in that state. The JD (U)’s ruling grand alliance partner in Bihar, the RJD, on the other hand, went all out to support Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress alliance which eventually lost the election.
RJD president Lalu Prasad, during a function here last week, had strongly advocated the continuance of the grand alliance beyond 2019, when the next Lok Sabha elections are due. Sharing the stage with him was JD (U) president and CM Nitish Kumar.
Political analysts attributed Prasad’s ‘conciliatory’ tone to the realisation that the Kumar-led government had to continue in office for his young sons, deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and health minister Tej Pratap Yadav, to gain experience and mature as politicians.
“Prasad’s ultimate aim is to help his sons get to the top post and for this he wants to buy time till 2019,” said a senior politician, close to both the GA leaders.
Other sources said the BJP’s UP win would persuade Kumar to examine his options. “The CM will not like his image of development man get diluted. He also has to tackle attacks on him by RJD leaders wondering aloud if he was “leaning towards the saffron party”.
The SP’s in UP loss may put a stop, at least for the time being, to Prasad’s effort to assert himself in matters of governance in Bihar.
It is unclear how exactly, if at all, the UP poll outcome will impact the ruling GA. But there are many who see a case for Kumar realigning with the BJP , especially in the wake of efforts geared to coming together of anti-BJP forces making little headway.
“Now that the BJP has won in UP, I do not rule out the possibility of Kumar breaking ties with Prasad and continuing as CM with the support of the BJP. He may also consider the option of returning to national politics,” said Manjhi.
Union minister Ram Kripal Yadav too sees the possibility of re-alignment of forces. “After all they (JDU) were friends of BJP for 17 years (before the JD (U) broke away from the NDA in June 2013),” said Yadav.
Many observers feel Kumar’s move not to contest the UP elections after running his party’s campaign in the state for over six months, lends credence to the possibility of realignment.
Kumar’s party claims it withdrew from the poll scene to prevent a split in “secular” votes. But its decision to remove its UP unit president Suresh Niranjan Bhaiyya for supporting the SP-Congress alliance, shows the party leadership is playing its cards close to the chest.
Kumar’s alleged tilt towards the NDA became a talking point when he picked a brush and dipped it in some saffron paint to fill the outline of a lotus drawn on a white canvas, during the 23rd Patna Book Fair here. After inaugurating the fair, the Bihar CM had agreed to try his hand on the canvas on which acclaimed painter Baoa Devi had drawn a lotus, also election symbol of the BJP.
The lotus painting incident came soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi warmly praised Kumar for his prohibition drive, at a public function, which was followed by an invitation extended to BJP leaders by JD (U) state president Bashishtha Narayan Singh for the Makar Sankranti feast, which was later cancelled.
Kumar had earlier broken ranks with other opposition parties to back PM Modi on his decision to demonetise high value currency notes.