The results of the byelections in Bhagalpur and Nalanda in Bihar and Koderma in Jharkhand are likely to lead to some rethinking and realignments within the BJP-NDA and the Congress-led UPA.
For the ruling NDA, BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussein’s victory in Bhagalpur and JD-U’s Ramswaroop Prasad success in Nalanda has been overshadowed by its complete humiliation in Koderma where former BJP leader and chief minister Babulal Marandi pushed the BJP’s nominee Pranav Verma to the third slot after the Congress’ Manoj Yadav.
In view of the Congress performance in Jharkhand—and earlier in the civic polls in UP—some AICC leaders have begun talking of the need of a Panchmarhi-kind of conclave to discuss the issue of pre-poll alliances. Though not willing to talk about it openly, they believe that the party’s growth is being hampered by its allies and other regional parties.like the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the RJD in Bihar, the NCP in Maharashtra, the SP and BSP in UP or the Left Front in West Bengal. Though the Congress is seen as a ``B’’ team in most of these states, the party is aware that until it revives itself, it cannot give up the idea of a coalition, particularly at the Centre.
In 1998, at Panchmarhi, the Congress decided it would consider coalitions only when absolutely necessary and on the basis of an agreed programme that does not weaken its ideology or basic ideology. In 2003, at Shimla, it revised this when Sonia Gandhi said that she had an open mind on coalitions as the political situation called on secular parties to jointly fight communalism fundamentalism and the BJP.
For the BJP and the JD-U, the outcome in Bhagalpur and Nalanda has come as a source of relief than elation as they managed to retain the seats vacated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi respectively though with a reduced margin. But it is expected to help the NDA, which has been showing cracks, keep together
In the midst of differences among UPA allies, Lalu underlined his relevance in the central coalition while driving home the point to the CPM, the CPI (which contested in Bhagalpur and Nalanda) and the Congress which has been wanting to come out of his shadow in Bihar that he remains a force in the state and other UPA partners cannot hope to make their mark without him. Lalu’s nominee Shakuni Chaudhury lost by 55000 votes in Bhagalpur. But the combined tally of the RJD and the Congres-LJP-backed CPM candidate Subodh Roy was more than the Hussain’s, showing that a common candidate could have queered the pitch for the BJP nominee whose reduced margin of victory (over 2004) reflected the differences within the BJP over his candidature as well as Lalu’s ability to exploit the complex inter-communal relations in the constituency.
Whether this will lead to more bitterness in the left-RJD relations or to the communists’ capitulation before Lalu for electoral survival, will be something to watch.