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The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) stunning victory in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls appears to have triggered a realignment of political forces in Bihar.
After a gap of 20 years, top 'Mandal era' leaders of the 1990s, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, are once again on the same side of the 'secular versus communal' political divide.
Lalu, with Nitish on his side, spearheaded an Other Backward Classes (OBC) consolidation in the early 1990s, soon after the then VP Singh government at the Centre announced the implementation of the Mandal commission recommendations, which provided for reserving government jobs for the OBCs.
To counter the Mandal play, BJP leader LK Advani had launched the 'Somnath to Ayodhya' rathyatra to garner support for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. This brand of politics was known as 'kamandal' politics, an allusion to a small earthenware carried by Hindu saints.
The days of the 'mandal versus kamandal' politics appeared to be back as the Lalu-led RJD declared on Thursday its 'unconditional outside support' for mahadalit chief minister Jitan Ram Manji-led new JD(U) regime in Bihar.
The RJD's move came after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 31 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar, decimating both the RJD-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which was left with seven seats, and the JD(U), which got just two seats.
"The 21 RJD MLAs will vote for the Manjhi regime in order to defeat communal and fascist forces," said RJD legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui on the eve of a vote of confidence being sought by Manjhi in the state assembly on Friday.
This means that the JD(U) would sail through the confidence vote on Friday with a huge margin.
The JD (U) has 117 MLAs, including the Speaker in the 243-member Bihar assembly, the effective strength of which is 236 at present.
In addition, four Congress MLAs, two independents, who were sworn in as ministers earlier this week, and one CPI MLA have already declared the support to the Manjhi regime.
As such, Manjhi has the support of 124 members (including the Speaker), which is well above the half way mark of 118. In addition, it now has the outside support of 21 RJD MLAs.
For the first time since they parted ways in 1994, Lalu Prasad has extended support to a rival party of which Nitish Kumar, who resigned as the chief minister last Saturday, is a top leader.
A close associate of Lalu Prasad when he became the Bihar chief minister in March 1990 for the first time, Nitish, along with veteran socialist leader George Fernandes, had parted ways with him after launching the Samata Party in 1994.
The Samata Party fared disastrously in the 1995 Bihar assembly elections, winning just seven out of 315 seats it had contested. Back then, it was a 324-member house.
Thereafter, it entered into an electoral alliance with the BJP in the 1996 Lok Sabha poll. Subsequently, it was merged with Sharad Yadav-led Janata Dal to form the JD(U).
This was after Lalu Prasad parted ways with the Janata Dal to form the RJD following a leadership struggle with Sharad Yadav.
The JD(U) continued with its electoral alliance with the BJP. It parted ways with the BJP in June last year after Narendra Modi was chosen to head the party's Lok Sabha poll campaign.
Since the 1994 break, Lalu and Nitish had never been on the same side of the political divide.
"Even now, when the RJD has backed a JD(U) regime, it is only after Nitish put in his papers," said an RJD source.
However, RJD leader Siddiqui claimed that the party would have backed the JD(U) regime "even if Nitish Kumar was at the helm of the government" for the "sake of unity of secular forces in their drive to combat communal forces."
Nitish Kumar quit office on Saturday, owning moral responsibility for his party's disastrous show in the just concluded Lok Sabha poll in which it could win just two out of 40 seats, down from 20 seats it had secured in the 2009 poll.
The RJD announcement marked a vindication of JD(U) president Sharad Yadav's statement last Sunday, hinting that the RJD might back a JD(U) government that was not headed by Nitish in order to combat 'communal forces' more effectively.
"Nitish's resignation is the next step in continuation with the (June 2013) decision to part ways with the NDA," Sharad had told reporters. He had added efforts were on to form an alternative government in order "to save the constitution".
Later, on Sunday, Lalu had described the report of joining forces with the JD(U) as "concocted and baseless".