Barely a week ago, the so-called Janata Parivar looked set to beat the BJP and romp home to victory in the Bihar assembly election.
But when Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav walked out of the so-called “grand alliance” for taking the Congress on board, the political group suddenly found itself on shaky ground again in the run-up to the high-stakes election in the sprawling eastern state.
Two of the state’s biggest political heavyweights, Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar and the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad, are now fighting with their backs to the wall with a smaller caste base as they gear up to take on the BJP in the five-phase polls starting October 12.
“Should the socialist alliance be able to stop the saffron juggernaut in Bihar, it could encourage a coming together of all anti-BJP groups nationally,” Lalu Prasad had said.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Bihar’s “grand alliance” between the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress from the word go.
The alliance was forced by a string of stunning BJP election wins, but competing ambitions prevented them from deciding on a name and symbol for the new entity.
But the parties didn’t have a choice. Prasad was unable to fight elections as he was sentenced in the fodder scam, while Kumar faced political oblivion if defeated and Congress had anyway been on the political margins for 25 years.
Was it then desperation, fear, or the advantageous caste arithmetic that brought Kumar, Prasad and Congress together? All three, say politics watchers.
“It is the most practical move to stop the BJP as present allies had polled 45.06% of votes in 2014 vis-à-vis, 39% of the now NDA. There is logic in union,” said JD-U state president Basishtha Narain Singh.
But the question many are asking today is: have hopes kindled by the grand alliance’s win in six of 10 assembly by-polls in July last year been snuffed out?