There had been much speculation over an alliance between Rashtriya Janata Dal, supported by Congress and having Nitish Kumar as its front-man, and Janata Dal United, helmed by Sharad Yadav. The assembly elections in Bihar are supposed to take place in September-October 2015 and this was going to be a major decision prior to polls. However, Sharad Yadav put all those rumours to rest on 4 June by announcing that both the parties will indeed merge and fight the all-important elections. Before the news was formally announced there had been reports in media that any merger was unlikely to happen since there were areas of contention regarding leadership issues between the two parties in question.
What Were the Problem Areas?
The main problem for RJD, which also has Lalu Prasad as one of its prominent figures, was Congress’ support for Nitish Kumar. Kumar has been projected as a progressive and secular leader and this is why Congress was so interested in supporting him. He is supposed to lead what is being termed a secular alliance that will go up against NDA led by BJP. Kumar has also received a lot of support from the Nationalist Congress Party. This immense wave of support for Nitish Kumar had put Lalu Prasad under a significant amount of pressure as to whether he could be accepted as the leader of the alliance. They had only one other option – to contest the elections by themselves.
What Does This Mean for Politics in Bihar?
At present, in order to get rid of NDA from Bihar, Congress needs to find a strong candidate. Ashok Choudhary, a Congress leader, has stated that the party needs someone to counter Narendra Modi’s “development plank” in the ensuing elections. Once Rahul Gandhi, the Vice President of Congress, preferred Nitish Kumar over Lalu Prasad, Congress also started supporting him wholeheartedly.
Ashok Yadav, one of the senior leaders of Congress, said that even during last year’s elections Rahul Gandhi had gone for Nitish Kumar but Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, went for Lalu Prasad instead. Sonia Gandhi is reportedly keen on establishing a partnership with JDU. However, in equal measure, she also wants to associate with Lalu Prasad so that all the votes to be cast against the NDA can be secured by the intended coalition. At the moment, BJP is yet to decide as to who its chief ministerial candidate would be. Leaders in JDU opine that now since Congress is aiding him, Nitish Kumar would have additional leverage in the negotiations with RJD.
Nitish Kumar has himself made it clear that his party is very much in favour of entering an alliance with Congress. He has said that JDU’s relations with Congress have always been rather positive. He also reiterated that Congress has been supportive of his government as well and this is why he would want to fight the upcoming elections along with Congress. However, he has faced some opposition from within RJD. One of the RJD leaders, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, is against the idea of projecting Nitish Kumar as the chief minister-elect of the alliance between the two parties.
Modi government has in May completed its first year in office. As such the Bihar elections of September will be a major test of the levels of popularity still enjoyed by the party ruling India now. Rahul Gandhi has gone out and stated that Modi’s administration is against the interests of poor people and farmers. In such an atmosphere the results of this election will bear great importance. In fact, it could have a wider impact than just Bihar. One feels that loss in the elections would have greater ramifications for Modi and BJP rather than the JDU-RJD combine.