The ‘alliance within an alliance’ formed by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is not, contrary to the Congress’s fears, aimed at challenging it. It is intended as a bulwark against Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in Bihar.
Their fear is that, if they are unable to win too many seats individually, the Congress, in its post poll search for allies to achieve a majority in Parliament, may seek the support of the BSP in UP and the JD(U) in Bihar.
If the latter insist on the Congress dissociating from the SP, the RJD and the LJP, the party may well do so, specially since they have no pre poll tie up. “Whatever the election results, we cannot allow Mayawati and Nitish Kumar to replace us as UPA partners in the next Lok Sabha,” said a senior LJP leader on conditions of anonymity. A joint front, with a larger number of MPs, renders them more difficult to discard.
Thus despite Lalu and Paswan having discarded the Congress as an electoral ally in Bihar, and Mulayam doing the same in UP, all three leaders have been singing hosannas to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and reiterating their readiness to back Manmohan Singh for a second term as prime minister.
From a vote share of 20.77 per cent in the 1999 elections in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) polled 22.35 per cent in 2004.
Similarly in UP, the BSP vote share rose from 22.08 percent in 1999 to 24.67 percent in 2004.
Mulayam, Lalu and Paswan were all bitter political rivals in the past. Lalu and Paswan bickered and conspired against each other all through the last five years, while both ironically remained colleagues in Manmohan Singh cabinet.
Lalu and Mulayam’s relations have been frosty ever since Lalu stymied Mulayam’s chances of becoming prime minister while the United Front government was in power in the mid 1990s. Yet ground realities have forced all three to bury past animosities and work together.