With the Congress willing to play ball, JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar's initiative of cobbling together a "secular formation", in the lead-in to the August 21 by-elections to 10 assembly seats, as a strategy to stop the BJP-led NDA juggernaut in Bihar appeared to gain ground Wednesday.
"The BJP is unlikely to face major challenges in Haryana, Maharashtra and other states going to polls this year, but political parties in Bihar have the potential to put up a strong challenge. In the run-up to the assembly elections next year, the secular parties can experiment with next month's by-polls as a test case," a senior Congress leader told HT.
Kumar and RJD's Lalu Prasad – bitter political foes till recently – have turned friends and even agreed to share four seats each in the by-elections, while offering one each to Congress and CPI.
Of these 10 constituencies, six were held by BJP, three by RJD and one by the ruling JD (U).
"The need of the hour for "secular parties" is to pool in resources and sink political differences. If the secular parties are able to beat the BJP in the by-elections, it will amount to taking the wind out of its sails," a senior JD (U) leader said.
Playing on the side of caution, Kumar told reporters at Patna that "all parties opposed to BJP were agreeable to such a tie-up, but that no formal talks had taken place in this matter."
Statistics tilt formidably in favour of the "secular parties" in the state, with the combined vote share of RJD, JD (U) and Congress in this year's general elections stacking up to 44.3% against the NDA vote share of 38.8%. In the 2010 assembly elections, JD (U), RJD and Congress had together polled 49.83% of the total votes, against 23.21% of BJP and LJP.
"It is quite unlikely that the arithmetic worked out on paper will translate in the same manner on the ground, but there is no better option for the non-BJP parties at the moment," a senior JD (U) leader conceded.
Amid reports that Prasad was unwilling to discuss seat sharing with Kumar's emissary and state BJP president Bashishta Narain Singh, speculations are rife that Kumar would be arriving in Delhi shortly to firm up the political alliance. Kumar, however, has denied such plans.