Internal contradictions, Lalu’s absence pull down Grand Alliance like a stack of cards
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress-led grand alliance’s (GA) rout in Bihar showed how the rainbow coalition of five secular parties failed to put up a formidable challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United)-led National Democratic Alliance.
Instead, the GA became a victim of internal contradictions.
The GA suffered a more pronounced loss in comparison to the 2014 parliamentary polls when the RJD-Congress- Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coalition had won seven seats.
This time, RJD, which contested 19 seats, failed to win even one while the Congress, having contested nine seats, won only in Kishanganj.
Other small allies, like the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and the Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP), could make no impact.
Poll observers said that the secular alliance suffered was routed primarily due to jailed RJD chief and former chief minister of the state Lalu Prasad Yadav’s absence. (He’s been incarcerated because of his role in fodder scam cases.) There were also delays in seat adjustments and RJD’s strategic ploy to give priority to small allies, such as RLSP, HAM(S) and VIP, over the Congress in seat allotments did not yield benefits.
Lack of energy in the campaign steered by opposition leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and internal bickering within the coalition were other factors. “Lalu was the cementing force to keep his traditional voters among Yadavs and Muslims, but this did not happen this time. Tejashwi lacked his father’s vote-transferring ability,” said D M Diwakar, former director, AN Sinha Institute for Social Studies, Patna.
The GA, with a combined vote share of around 45%, looked like a formidable match for NDA’s vote share of 51.60%. However, the NDA’s success in keeping its vote bank intact and its ability to make inroads in rival camps, especially among the Yadavs with the nationalism
rhetoric, proved to be
more than a match for the secular front.
Observers feel the RJD miscalculated its strategy of keeping the Congress on a leash and banked heavily on smaller allies to garner votes from economically backward classes (EBCs) and scheduled caste votes. “RLSP, HAM(S) and VIP are all small parties, having a limited appeal among voters of their castes. The RJD’s caste-based politics also did not work this time as the NDA’s caste arithmetic was more potent with the JD(U) on its side,” said Rajeev Kumar, a political worker associated with the GA.
That the JD(U)’s vote bank worked as a catalyst in all 40 seats for the NDA was reflected in Pataliputra and Arrah, where the GA lost to BJP candidates despite a tactical understanding with the CPI-ML to check the division of secular votes.
GA insiders said delay in seat adjustment and rebel candidates of RJD and Congress contesting against the official nominees in seats like Madhubani, Jehanabad and Buxar spoiled the coalition’s poll prospects even as Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav’s rebellious antics sent the wrong message to core supporters.
“Corruption was another plank where the GA was on a weak wicket, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi making it a poll issue to nail the alliance as a coalition of corrupt leaders out to save their skin. It worked for the NDA,” said BJP’s Shambu Kumar.
Ashok Sinha of the BJP said the GA crumbled under the weight of its internal contradictions and vaulting ambition of the siblings of the RJD’s first family.
RJD’s national vice president Shivanand Tiwary said the election results were totally out of sync with existing ground realities and expressed surprise at RJD losing Araria, a seat the party had won in the by-elections just eight months ago.
“We will introspect on the reasons and there is nothing to worry,” Tiwary said, denying the argument that the Lok Sabha results would impact the GA’s poll fortunes in the
coming 2020 Assembly polls.