The coming together of the erstwhile Janata Dal family members with the promise of merger has created a stir but hasn’t shaken Bihar politics as the RJD chief Lalu Prasad and the JD(U) boss Nitish Kumar may have expected.
While there was a sense of inevitability and quiet acceptance of a ‘settled fact’ in either parties following the New Delhi declaration on Thursday, the sense of relief in the BJP— the main opposition — was more obvious.
The signs of a possible merger of the RJD and the JD(U) were omnipresent post the Lok Sabha drubbing and especially after they joined the hapless Congress in Bihar to win six of the 10 by-poll seats thereafter.
But the biggest lure in joining hands was probably this: Despite taking a severe beating in the Lok Sabha polls in which the BJP won 31 of 40 seats, leaving just 7 to the RJD, the JD(U) and the Congress, the combined vote share of the latter together was a strong 44.3% against the BJP-led NDA’s 38.8%.
There were other factors, too: The rising dissidence in the JD(U), desertion of upper caste members from the JD(U) and the RJD to the BJP and Nitish’s bright chance of becoming the chief minister due to Lalu’s indictment in the fodder scam.
Gyanendra Kumar Gyanoo, who was recently expelled from the JD(U), believes the BJP will have the last laugh. “The merger is god-sent for Nitish who had won 115 seats running on BJP steam in 2010 assembly polls. It’s not certain if he will command 10% of the votes as against 24% in 2010,” said Gyanoo. “The merged RJD-JD(U) combine has to proclaim Nitish as the chief ministerial candidate with one of Lalu’s kin a possible deputy. But it would heighten dissidence and only benefit the BJP via desertions”.
Former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP said, “The merger sends home the message that Nitish — a self-proclaimed development man — has now chosen sides with ‘lawlessness’, a feature of the Lalu-Rabri regime”.
The merger could a potential reason to alienate Dalits. LN Sharma, the president of the Bihar Political Science Association, said: “After Nitish is named the chief ministerial candidate, it will raise the question why Jitan Ram Manjhi, a dalit and present chief minister, ‘was used’, an issue which could alienate the 22% dalits,” said Sharma.
Union minister of state for sanitation and drinking water Ram Kripal Yadav has a different take. “What do the leaders of this formation have in common? The only link among them is family, not ideology,” he said.