IS NITISH KUMAR GOING TO RUN THE SHOW THIS TIME?

So, Nitish Kumar is running the show again. On November 20, riding on the electoral sweep made by his alliance with RJD and Congress, he was sworn in again, as Bihar’s chief minister for the 5th term.

But, is he running the show this time?

Is he going to run the show this time?

Between 2005 and 2015, water has consistently flown in the Ganga by Patna, Bihar’s capital city and the seat of power and the latest assembly poll results show its pace has been quite chaotic, quite unpredictable. A look at the post-election trends of 2010 and 2015 bares all.

The power corridors of Patna draw strength from the rural hinterlands of Bihar and those hinterlands have rechristened Lalu Prasad Yadav again as the king and the kingmaker of Bihar’s politics with his party RJD emerging as the largest political party in the 243 members strong Bihar Assembly with 80 seats. Nitish Kumar’s JDU, the undisputed leader in the state’s politics since 2005, has been forced to the number 2 spot with 71 seats.

Here it doesn’t matter, for this analysis, if JDU and BJP won 124 seats together, commanding a vote share of over 41% – even if it going to hurt JDU now and may even cause new equations to emerge in the days to come.

Let’s put aside the arithmetic of seat sharing of different alliances in these polls and see the projection of vote shares – because JDU was always in alliances – first it was a long one with BJP that it formed to oust Lalu’s RJD from Bihar – and now with the same RJD – and that speaks a lot.

In the last assembly polls in Bihar in 2010, JDU had contested on 141 seats winning 115 with a vote share of 22.58%. RJD, which had gone for 168 seats, was restricted to just 22 seats in the assembly with a vote share of 18.84%.

Now come to 2015.

JDU and RJD, both together in alliance now, fought on 101 seats each, way below the 141 mark of JDU and 168 of RJD in 2010. Obviously, they have been helped by synergies in ‘votebanks’ and a negative campaign by BJP.

But, symbolically, what we need to consider here is tale involved in the figures and how the subsequent events have started unfolding thereafter.

RJD won 80 out of 101 seats it fought with a vote share of 18.4%, more or less similar to the numeric strength of the last time – a more than significant gain in number of seats from the last time – especially when we see that we all had started writing political obituary of Lalu Yadav and RJD after Lalu was convicted in the fodder scam and was barred from any electoral process or political office.

JDU won 71 seats with 16.8% vote share, coming to a second in terms of number of seats while third in cornering votes – while it bagged top spots in both in 2010.

So, JDU is down by 6% in vote share and is almost reduced to half in number of seats – from its 2010 tally.

Political analysts may go to the finer details like number of seats fought then and now and the subsequent trends in the vote shares, but what is also a bare reality that, symbolically, the results should bring down the morale of the JDU workers (and of Nitish Kumar) as we live in a country where elections are still fought on perceptions and are driven by impulsive considerations.

Nitish Kumar who emerged as the most preferred political personality of Bihar in 2005 did so by targeting his politics and campaign on Lalu-Rabri Devi’s rule of 15 years which he termed ‘jungleraj’.

Now, Nitish Kumar stands dwarfed by the same Lalu Yadav and his RJD – the big brother in his government in Patna this time.

It may be said that the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance fought the polls in the name of Nitish Kumar who was the alliance’s chief-ministerial nominee and so he should be given credit to this sweeping electoral mandate of the alliance he stitched.

But numbers and trends post assembly election results pose some serious questions that only time will answer.

We know JDU’s party cadre and organizational strength is very week in Bihar and so far, before these assembly polls and the Lok Sabha election last year, had driven the show on BJP’s shoulders, the party with the largest vote share this time.

These results should serve as the warning signals for Nitish – for his party’s organizational structure in the state and for his political career that is now dependent on Lalu – and that makes Nitish the real loser in all this.

And it seems the process has started on not a welcome step.

Though, it is said Nitish has started on a tough note by ordering bureaucrats to bring back the state on a high pedestal of law and order immediately like it was earlier during his tenure, the other portfolio allocations raise questions.

To ensure smooth running of administration, Nitish has kept the home department and the general administration with himself. But what about appointments of Lalu’s sons as cabinet ministers?

Lalu’s both sons are politically naïve and socially inexperienced. Coronation of a 26 year old deputy CM, i.e., Lalu’s son Tejaswi, tells Lalu has started exacting his price. The two most important sectors of Bihar, that Nitish is known to have worked on, i.e., roads and health care, are now with Lalu’s sons. Finance is also with RJD.

Yes, being a senior partner with greater numbers, Lalu’s party needed a respectable share. But had it been for a changed Lalu who would be looking for a long-term political future for his sons, this decision would not have been here. His sons could have been given other less significant ministerial portfolios to gain experience first. But, it seems Lalu has prevailed in his trademark way of politics, keeping interests of his family first, like the way he made Rabri Devi CM in 1997.

And if it is so, it is not going to stop here!

So, it is a rough start we should say and it is going to be a difficult ride with many tides – something that we all can expect by the precedent so far.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE ‘VERY REAL’ POLITICAL POSSIBILITIES IN BIHAR NOW..

Based on questionable and condemnable past credentials of Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime of 15 years when Bihar had the RJD government – from 1990 to 2005 – termed Jungleraj by Nitish Kumar – and based on Nitish Kumar’s bitter relation with Lalu Yadav – that is just opportunistically suppressed at the moment (obviously, due to obvious political compulsions) – because we need to keep this in mind that Lalu had initially refused projecting Nitish Kumar as the chief-ministerial candidate of the alliance (read JDU-RJD-Congress-SP, as SP was then in the alliance) – and Nitish’s party has lost the tag of being the largest political party in Bihar assembly to Lalu’s RJD – a development that is ominous to Nitish’s style of politics – again based on the circumstances so far:

The JDU-RJD-Congress government would run smoothly: Now, this is the least likely scenario. But if it happens, it will be smoothest thing Bihar’s electorate can expect – provided Nitish Kumar finds himself free to run the government and Lalu, who cannot contest polls and cannot take any political office, as he is a convict in the fodder scam, will put his energy more in his and his family’s political revival.

It will become the RJD-JDU-Congress combine: Lalu, being the numero-uno of RJD may exact his price, making Nitish Kumar a follower and not a trendsetter. After all, if Lalu walks out, Nitish’s government will collapse – if Nitish doesn’t agree to compromise.

Nitish is most likely to have his deputy from RJD or from Lalu’s family and important ministers as well. Lalu will weigh heavily in governance decisions and Nitish will face trouble in taking decisions freely, like he has been taking so far, and in reining in the bad elements associated with RJD, the senior partner in the government.

In this case, Bihar can soon expect another round of assembly polls – if any one of the parties walks out of the alliance – again based on their own reasoning – that would, in turn, be based on their political revival of the past.

Nitish can split RJD: Now it is a known fact that RJD has no face but Lalu Yadav. His both sons are novice and his daughter Misa has no political experience. As Lalu cannot take any political position, it would be best for him to stick to the routine and let Nitish do his work. Otherwise, Nitish can easily split RJD to get the numbers to run his government, in case his ties with his Lalu sour. A party with mass no leader than Lalu, who is barred from taking office, would be an easy target to lure its members – in the name of accessibility to the power corridors.

Or it can be a JDU-BJP combine again: We all know the cliché of Indian politics – that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics – and going by the account of the long years of JDU-BJP alliance, there is no reason to think these parties cannot come together again – especially when Nitish would feel suffocated to run the government of JDU-RJD combine.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY IT IS NOT NITISH KUMAR’S WIN?

India won but Bihar lost yesterday.‪

Nitish Kumar may have scored a self-goal against ‪Narendra Modi but he is actually the biggest loser with ‪RJD emerging as the largest party – and with him the people of ‪Bihar.

JDU was always the largest political party in the Bihar assembly post Lalu-Rabri regime – but now the baton has changed hands – and it is now with Lalu Prasad Yadav – yesterday onwards.

And in spite of all the high hopes, the future looks scary – what if Lalu’s presence in the governance causes the same old malaise to return again?

Nitish and Lalu trace their origins to the same tree but Nitish took a different political streak to emerge as Lalu Prasad Yadav’s sworn enemy in Bihar politics – the sworn enemy that has been Nitish’s ‘friend of convenience’ for quite some time now – the ‘friend-turned-foe-turned-friend’ who was initially adamant on ‘not accepting Nitish’s projection as the chief-ministerial candidate of JDU-RJD-Congress alliance’.

Now, that ‘friend-turned-foe-turned-friend’ is Nitish Kumar’s big brother in Bihar’s politics – and he gave enough indications of it during the presser held last afternoon after the results. Not so long ago, everyone was busy writing political obituary of Lalu – and bang! – he is back in the game now – with a bang.

Well, Lalu, being convicted in the fodder scam, is legally barred from electoral politics and political office and his party RJD has no mass leaders except him – and that is the most plausible reason to make him go smoothly with Nitish – otherwise Nitish can easily split his party, a valid possibility – but that doesn’t take care of political necessities of the day to day politics – that doesn’t take care of the bad elements that have long been associated with RJD’s politics in Bihar – a system that Nitish Kumar famously used to term ‘Jungleraj’.

Even if Bihar was not on some highway of development, especially during Nitish’s second term, he really did bring fundamental and positive changes in Bihar’s governance and for that reason, he remains the undisputed CM choice of Bihar, but the numerical key of the government is with ‘big brother’ Lalu now.

With RJD lording over JDU, the threat of going back to the dark days of Lalu-Rabri regime are quite real. Nitish has this tough task of managing a difficult and unprincipled alliance with Lalu’s party and we hope he succeeds or else, we will soon have another round of assembly polls in Bihar.

Or would some sense prevail on Lalu’s style of politics now??

Or can there be political developments that will lead us to see another round of JDU-BJP bonhomie?

That is in future, but for now, Lalu Prasad Yadav has emerged as the only winner in these Bihar assembly polls.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAJOR FACTORS BEHIND JDU-RJD-CONGRESS ALLIANCE WIN IN BIHAR POLLS

More of a BJP’s loss than Nitish Kumar’s win (or basically Lalu Yadav’s win): BJP is paying heavily – for not relying on local leadership of Bihar – for centralising power unnecessarily in party’s central leadership – for running a negative campaign and not focusing on development – for engaging in war of words and below the belt comments that Lalu Yadav did with much more efficiency the result proved.

A consolidated votebank against BJP: The anti-BJP alliance could successfully stop swing of its votes and could consolidate them further to transfer within the alliance. In the end, the alliance’s 44.6% vote share tells it was miles ahead to the BJP alliance’s 34.1%. A negative and personality oriented campaign (both by and against) did further consolidate the alliance’s votebank together. It also showed an effective alliance based on caste equations can effectively take on BJP if it remains intact. The OBC-Yadav-Muslim combine this time did exceedingly well for the grand alliance while BJP’s stand on issues like reservation and intolerance hurt its prospects deeply here.

Anti-reservation – anti-Dalit: Mohan Bhagwat’s comments about reservation, it seems, have gone deep in the psyche of masses. Even if RSS’ website prominently figures Bhagwat’s clarification on his ‘reservation’ remarks, the public, it seems, have refused to buy it. Another remark by the union minister V K Singh on Dalit lynching incident of a Faridabad village, drawing an ill-conceived ‘dog’ analogy, seems to have dented the prospects further.

Taking opposition not seriously: Now it seems so – as BJP has emerged as the party with the largest vote share. While Nitish and Lalu focused on ground level campaigning connecting more people – with small gatherings in large numbers – BJP still relied on technology to reach ‘virtually’ to the masses – that could not penetrate in the psyche of masses driven by compulsions and preferences of an assembly election. All BJP’s star campaigners were outsiders – Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh – and that seems to have backfired in a cleverly crafted and fought ‘Bihari Vs Bahari’ campaign by Nitish Kumar. Most of the Bihar BJP leaders were absent even from campaign publicity hoardings, banners and posters. The tech savvy team of Amit Shah could not match the intensive ground level connect of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav who held over 200 rallies each.

Also, BJP had no match for popularity of Nitish Kumar as the chief-ministerial candidate. Though Nitish has failed to perform like he could during his first full five-year term, he still was its undisputed development-oriented leader, and so there was no significant anti-incumbency against him. What helped him more was the fact the BJP was his alliance partner in the power corridors of Patna till June 2013 when Nitish broke the alliance over differences on projecting Narendra Modi as the prime-ministerial nominee of the alliance in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

It was like the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when there was no national leader to scale the popularity of Narendra Modi as the prime-ministerial candidate on different rating scales. And it happened so in Delhi with Arvind Kejriwal being there. But BJP could not learn its lessons. The other assembly elections that it won or performed well after the grand performance in the Lok Sabha elections last year had huge waves of anti-incumbency against the ruling parties and chief-ministers – in Maharashtra, in Jharkhand, in Haryana, in Jammu & Kashmir. Though Nitish did not emerge as the real winner, with RJD emerging as the largest party in the Bihar assembly with 80 seats, 9 more than Nitish’s JDU, the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance fought the election projecting Nitish Kumar as its leader.

Too much of tolerance Vs intolerance: Yes, the debate has engulfed the nation’s consciousness. True, we are a tolerant nation, a resilient one. But equally true is the fact there has been spate of intolerant activities from the fringe groups and from the voices within the ruling party and groups associated with it. BJP needs to think seriously about this problem now – about its loudmouth leaders and about practices like politics around cow and other religious notions. While the educated and middles classes were left in bad taste about such incidents – like the government’s attitude on FTII row and Gajendra Chauhan issue, on beef politics, on cow slaughter, on Dadri lynching, on ‘Ghar Wapasi’ and so on – the Muslim voters, who are around 15% in Bihar, and who could never trust BJP, ensured that they work to defeat BJP by voting en masse, not succumbing to the agenda based campaigning by likes of Owaisis.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY BJP LOST BIHAR POLLS?

AND WHAT IT TELLS ABOUT INDIA’S POLITICS IN THESE TIMES..

The second round in the political turf war between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar goes to Nitish Kumar and in an equally emphatic way as was Narendra Modi’s and BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha election last year.

BJP and Nitish Kumar’s JDU were long terms partners and shared power together in Bihar for over 8 years before Nitish parted ways in the name of ‘BJP becoming Narendra Modi’s BJP’.

It was the second election (barring bypolls) that the two political outfits fought as rivals and with this, JDU has equaled the score 1-1.

But what it tells about political state of affairs now?

Given the fact that the broad issues that the Bihar elections were pinned on revolved around caste, religion and community arithmetic, the outcome of the polls become interesting for how they would affect the further political discourse in the country on some issues doing rounds in the national consciousness.

— The poll result will, first of all, tell vehemently that the Delhi poll debacle was not an aberration but was a clear indication of things and days to come – an ominous signal which was conveniently ignored by BJP.

— The most worrying socio-political aspect of it is that the country is indeed going through a rough patch with real threat of communal and caste-based flare-ups if the fringe elements and intolerant voices are not reined in now.

— The message will be that people are not taking developments like FTII row or appointments to other institutions, JNU row, reservation policy row or the move to return national awards by eminent personalities to protest the surge in incidents of intolerance or the ongoing legacy wars to claim legacies of the political luminaries from the country’s past.

— After Delhi, the Bihar polls are again a direct testimony on BJP’s performance. The message is that the NDA government, so far, has failed to perform effectively on its promises of governance and development. BJP lost even in Jayapur in Panchayat polls, a village adopted by Narendra Modi in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi. It will further reinforce the demand that people need concrete development now, not even a blueprint will do. There are valid questions even in Varanasi now where the city has seen no significant development in the last 18 months or so. Developments like making Banaras Hindu University a greater mess that it was earlier in, go squarely to the union government of BJP in Delhi.

— Narendra Modi now needs to do some serious thinking about his political branding and imagery, given the fact that the Bihar assembly election was basically a direct personal fight between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar from JDU. Nitish had left the JDU-BJP alliance in Bihar on NDA’s projection of Narendra Modi as its prime-ministerial candidate and had stepped down after JDU’s crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha election last year. Also, it is not about other BJP leaders but about Narendra Modi. People have given BJP absolute majority because of Narendra Modi and Narendra Modi will obviously be worried about his political legacy.

— We can soon see Shiv Sena walking out of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. The alliance has been in consistent controversies ever since the two old alliance partners came together again last year. Shiv Sena, the big brother-turned-humiliated-junior partner in Maharashtra is freshly recharged from its gains in Maharashtra civic polls, the first big shot post Maharashtra assembly polls in 2014, the polls in which BJP has performed poorly. The ongoing war of words between Uddhav Thakeray, the Shiv Sena chief, and Devendra Fadnavis, the Maharashtra chief minister, may precipitate into something big soon.

— The outcome makes it mandatory for BJP to do course correction with its politics, especially in the light of the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab (2016) and Uttar Pradesh (2017) – with realizations and changed requirements post the debacle in the Bihar assembly polls.

— BJP’s alliance with SAD in Punjab is not so smooth and the party has lost every subsequent election in UP after the grand show in the Lok Sabha election in May 2014. If we go by the projections and different analytical reports so far, we can say Congress is going to win the next round of polls in Punjab and

— In UP, BJP still has no mass political leader and cadre. This is a space that the party has failed to populate so far, especially in the context that it had the grand opportunity to do so with the sky-high confidence that it got with the absolute show there in the last year’s parliamentary polls – winning 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats. And the Bihar assembly polls results tell why the party needs to focus on poll infrastructure at the ground level and development politics while effectively controlling the ‘fringe and intolerant voices’ – because once the UP is lost in 2017 – it will be a moral doom for the party to make a comeback in the 2019 parliamentary polls.

— And that goes with the socio-political imperative of the day that there will be more protests and intensified attacks on BJP and the NDA government on ‘politics around cow and religion’ about these ‘fringe voices spewing venom of intolerance in an otherwise resiliently tolerant Indian society’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

JANATA DAL: 1988 TO 2015 – THE STORY REMAINS THE SAME

After much downs and few ups, six factions of the erstwhile ‘Janata Dal’ or evergreen ‘Janata Parivar’ came together to save India’s secular fabric – at least that is what they had claim.

And in process, they thought, they could make a front to revive their dwindling political futures.

But they could not or did not deliberate on ‘state Vs national’ aspect of their ‘coming together’.

Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and Janata Dal (United) in Bihar are fighting to win the upcoming elections in their respective states.

An assembly election loss, after a humiliating show in the Lok Sabha polls last year, would be a heavy burden for Samajwadi Party to bear. The party may not recover from it. Losing assembly polls in Bihar, after complete decimation in the Lok Sabha polls, will make Nitish Kumar and Janata Dal (United), irrelevant in national and state politics.

Rashtriya Janata Dal, after Lalu Yadav’s conviction in fodder scam, is fighting a battle that he has already lost. An association with his corruption taint may be detrimental electorally. Samajwadi Janata Party exists only in three words, literally. Janata Dal (Secular) is losing its appeal in Karnataka.

The family head of the family show, Indian National Lok Dal, has been jailed for 10 years in a corruption case and his party failed to make any mark in the Lok Sabha as well as in the assembly polls.

And these six parties came together to form a combined entity together.

But it was an alliance of political opportunism with no political pragmatism.

Primary issues, potent enough to derail the process, like name, symbol and main party office of the new political entity were not worked out. And they remain elusive.

On ground, four of these parties have no or very less political currency left. RJD may work some political miracle given the prominence of ‘caste factor’ in the Bihar polls, but even that is not possible for others of the lot.

SP and JD(U) are restricted to UP and Bihar only – in their respective states. And they are fighting battles of political survival in retaining these states.

So, there is no conflict of interest – at least politically. SP can help JD(U) and RJD in Bihar and these two parties can do the same for SP in UP. But that needs prior understanding, that wasn’t tried to work out before the ‘grand Janata Parivar merger’ was announced.

After he left Congress, Vishwanath Pratap Singh had formed Janata Dal in 1988 to extend his political interests and as there was no ideology behind the move but a political purpose to somehow form the government, the party started witnessing splits fuelled by political ambitions.

It was Chandra Shekhar’s prime-ministerial ambition behind emergence of Samajwadi Janata Party or Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regional ambitions behind SP. Then Nitish Kumar and George Fernandes walked out with Samta Party. Lalu Yadav did his part by forming RJD in 1997. Om Prakash Chautala started his political family with Indian National Lok Dal. Nitish Kumar had one more split when he split Samta Party and formed Janata Dal (United) in 2003. Then there are more.

Since its formation, if Janata Dal has anything constant to talk about, it is its split after split at regular intervals – over a dozen and counting – splits fuelled by political ambitions.

Though Mulayam Singh Yadav has not walked out of the ‘reunited but still unnamed Janata Parivar’, he has clearly left the two parties of the new entity in Bihar. As told, he is feeling insulted and humiliated over the treatment meted out to his party in Bihar – by the political brethren of his ‘reunited Janata Parivar’.

But the real reason lies in securing the regional power centers first. The leverage that the combined entity can give in national politics comes later. If there is no regional political currency left, thinking of being a force at the national level will be nothing more than daydreaming.

UP being SP’s only power corridor, it needs to save it first, pooling and exhausting all resources to fight the wave of huge anti-incumbency to win the 2017 assembly polls. And it would avoid embarrassing and electorally sensitive elements like aligning with Lalu Yadav and Congress, the party that is its opponent in the state.

So, it was a ‘decision as per the political norms’ when he decided to walk out of the alliance in Bihar. In fact, by doing so, he can reap the benefit in a better way. SP has always been non-existent in Bihar. So, it doesn’t take the state seriously. Now, if the election returns, somehow, with better results this time, with the party again fighting on all seats, it would be a talking point for the UP assembly polls. After all, Mulayam can think of cornering some of Yadav and Muslim votes there – with increasing political isolation of Lalu Yadav (and Nitish would not like to see a politically stronger Mulayam Singh Yadav in Bihar).

Now, it is to be seen whether Sharad Yadav and Lalu Yadav become successful in brining Mulayam back into the alliance – as they are claiming.

But the development has clearly indicated one thing – and again – that Janata Dal was a loose amalgamation of different political groups which had come together to get into the power corridors and it had no ideology of its own – and every ‘satrap’ kept his political interests before the interest of combined entity. That led to its premature or early death.

In 1988, it was in the name of opposing Congress. In 2015, it is in the name of stopping BJP. In 1988, it had a combined identity, a name and symbol. In 2015, the ‘merged’ parties are still fighting elections as separate parties. In 1988, there was no political ideology to back the formation of Janata Dal. In 2015, the story remains the same.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY MULAYAM SINGH YADAV WALKED OUT OF ALLIANCE IN BIHAR?

Samajwadi Party has no stake in the upcoming Bihar assembly polls. It is politically non-existent in the state.

Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal have no grounds in Uttar Pradesh where assembly elections are due in April-May 2017.

Samajwadi Party is in government in Uttar Pradesh where the party won complete majority in 2012 assembly polls and Akhilesh Yadav became state’s chief minister. But the party had humiliating loss in the last year Lok Sabha elections where it failed to win any seats outside the ruling Yadav family and had to restrict to just five seats – all won in SP’s strongholds.

Bihar has Nitish Kumar from JD (U) as its chief minister. When he had fought the last assembly elections in 2010, he was in alliance with BJP. The ruling coalition had got a thumping majority. But due to some reason (read Nitish Kumar’s ego clash with Narendra Modi, the prime-ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)), he broke the alliance and fought the Lok Sabha polls alone. His party met with a big loss and was decimated to only two seats. Nitish Kumar took its moral responsibility and resigned, installing Jitan Ram Manji, a Mahadalit, as the CM. But Manjhi didn’t turn out to be the sort of puppet he was thought to be. He soon started speaking a language of his own political ambitions – giving indications of even aligning with BJP. That made Nitish uncomfortable. And finally, when Manjhi openly rebelled and declined to toe the line, the party sacked him and Nitish became the CM again – in a scramble to gain victory in the upcoming assembly polls.

In UP, it’s SP Vs them (including Congress).

In Bihar, it’s JD(U) + RJD + Congress Vs them.

And in both states, BJP is the principal opposition. It won 73 seats in UP (with allies, 2 seats) out of 80 and 31 in Bihar (with allies, 9 seats) out of 40 in the last parliamentary elections. And the party is putting its all efforts to replicate the show in the upcoming assembly polls in both states – next month in Bihar and in 20 months in UP.

These two states together share 120 of 543 parliamentary seats in India and are the heartland of Indian politics.

For BJP, winning these states would further strengthen its pan-India appeal and would provide legitimacy to its claims of being the largest political party with a nationwide acceptance. Without having strong political grounds in UP and Bihar, BJP cannot claim so – given the fact that is has been in government in both these states.

SP, JD(U) or RJD are regional parties. In spite of best of their efforts, they have failed to go out of the state they belong to. And their political sanctity and existence lie in securing that home citadel first. Yes, if the citadels are like UP and Bihar, the political nerve centres in India, its gives a big leverage in the national politics.

After parting ways with BJP, Nitish is trying hard to find the way that could win the electoral game for him. Likewise, Lalu Yadav’s compulsion to survive politically saw an ally in Nitish and they both came together. Though Congress has become politically irrelevant in Bihar, to manage caste equations, it was also taken in the alliance. And in the name of reuniting the factions of the ‘Janata Parivar’, SP also joined the bandwagon.

Even if the political realties had the potential to go the other way.

And it seems they are going the other way.

And that has made for another flip-flop by Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Nitish Kumar may win the Bihar polls but his alliance with Lalu Yadav’s party may derail the show. Lalu’s corruption taint has the potential to sully his chances. And it may threaten SP’s chances in UP as well, where there is already a huge anti-incumbency wave against Akhilesh Yadav’s government.

Also, Congress may be politically irrelevant in Bihar, but in UP, it still matters, where it won 28 seats with around 12% vote share in 2012 assembly polls. If Congress and the SP fight together in Bihar but as political rivals in UP, it would create an embarrassing situation that the party would try to avoid – because there would be no answers.

The priority (political) for SP should be saving UP first in 2017 – and focusing on Bihar, with many contradicting factors, would jeopardize efforts – because, going by UP’s electoral history and the anti-incumbency against the SP government, there are real chances that the party is going to lose the 2017 polls.

We need to see the decision of Mulayam Singh Yadav to walk out of the ‘grand alliance’ in Bihar in this context, irrespective of the reason he is speaking about.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TODAY’S COMING TOGETHER OF JANATA PARIVAR HAS TO BE SEEN IN THIS CONTEXT..

It is a ‘parivar’ where family members want to maintain their own homes, their own signs and their own identities. And while wanting to do so, the resourceful of them want to impose what they are, on others, expecting that others would follow the suit.

Unlike a family, they are still together, waiting for the signs to emerge that who can claim the stewardship, who can push for the symbol and who can draw the identity mileage.

That is the story of ‘Janata Parivar’, a group of six political outfits – Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal-United (JDU), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), H. D. Devegowda’s Janata Del-Secular (JDS) and Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP), the party of former prime minister Chandashekhar – that trace their origin the once relevant Janata Dal (JD).

The three most important parties of this ‘Parivar’ are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two Hindi heartland states with huge populations and therefore powerful legislative equation at state level and in Parliament.

UP has the SP government where elections are due in early 2017 and Akhilesh Yadav’s government will be facing huge anti-incumbency. JDS is limited only to Karnataka, INLD to Haryana. SJP is just in records. It doesn’t exist politically. Bihar has the JDU government. Elections are due in the state in few months and JDU is finding it difficult to fight to retain the chief-minister’s chair in spite of the development claims by its Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The RJD, that has ruled the state for many year, is fighting the survival battle after court-conviction of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Except the JD(U), all these parties are family businesses, run like that only.

And all these parties are facing threat of being pushed out of power or being made irrelevant by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP’s clear mandate in Lok Sabha elections, its sweeping performance in UP and Bihar and its impressive victories in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, among others, created a challenge before the political spectrum to handle what was facing them.

Political parties including Congress are answering it with their own devised methods. These parties opted to merge under the banner of the JD to present a formidable front that was strong enough to take on the BJP, even if they had taken separate routes to promote personal egos and personal interests.

Lalu and Nitish have been long-time rivals in Bihar and the RJD’s ‘jungleraj’ used to be main campaigning plank of Nitish Kumar and the BJP. That was until the BJP was in alliance with the JDU. Now, Lalu and Nitish are together, and are the main targets of the BJP.

Well, we never expected Indian politics to play out ethical games. Every outfit is engaged in taking pragmatic moves to further political interests, including political survival.

Today’s announcement by the ‘Janata Parivar’ of ‘contesting Bihar polls together’ is an extension of those efforts.

We heard a long ago that these six outfits, having their origin in the JD, would merge and form a new party. As expected, nothing has moved on this front. There are issues like ‘name and symbol’ of the new outfit. Obviously, the party with strongest electoral presence will leverage the position better. Outcome of the Bihar polls will be a logical way to assess that. If Nitish makes a comeback, the decision will shift to the UP polls (as expected). If the JDU doesn’t perform well in these polls, the SP may gain the upper hand.

So, it’s a wait and watch game – for them, for other political folks..and for us.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NITISH KUMAR ‘MAKES’ A COMEBACK

The stage was set for the final showdown on February 20, but then one of the principal protagonists suddenly left the arena, giving walk over to his opponent.

And the opponent, the three-term chief minister of Bihar, was inaugurated for the fourth term today.

Nitish Kumar is the chief minister of Bihar again. And as he says – that his predecessor, Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was handpicked by him last May, had derailed the state from the path of progress – he has some eight months, as the current Bihar assembly is completing its term on November 29, 2015,
to bring the state back to the growth trajectory that he claims he had achieved for the state.

Nitish has been apologising for leaving the office of Bihar’s chief minister last year and letting Bihar on a negative growth spiral and his ‘Kejriwal act’ is being much talked about and discussed.

Probably, after seeing the brilliant success of Kejriwal’s apology act, Nitish thought he could do the same to deflect questions on his last year rhetoric that he would not come back to the office unless he gets a fresh mandate from Bihar’s voters.

Another pretext that he is speaking about is Manjhi’s misrule. Nitish says he was forced to come back as people were disappointed and angry with governance of the day in Bihar.

Now that he is back, he has to come out with 100% on his performance amid intense media and opposition scrutiny that would run along with a union government headed by his bitter political rival Narendra Modi.

While the good will go in mitigating the ‘bad’ of his ’emotional decision’ last year, any bad will have amplified repercussions on his chances to score positively.

Can Nitish deliver when he has just eight months, given the fact that he was ‘forced’ to come back as Manjhi had brought bad days back?

The ‘bad days’ that he is also responsible for as bringing in Manjhi was his unilateral decision.

Now, the BJP may not ask this question to milk the better prospect of wooing the Mahadalit voters in the name of ‘Nitish insulting a Mahadalit leader and chief minister’, the young and educated voter would certainly think about it.

Also, the realpolitik of the day is different. The good governance days of Bihar under Nitish Kumar were from a coalition government with the BJP as an equal partner. It was in fact widely analysed that the BJP ministers were better performers.

Now Nitish is dependent on Lalu Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal. Lalu is convicted in the fodder scam and is barred from contesting polls. The Bihar of his days, either under him or his wife’s rule, was seen as a failed state, a state where development politics had become a ‘forbidden political paradigm’.

Nitish changed that. He rode to the power promising development and delivered. But all this while, he was with the BJP.

Now as he is with Lalu Yadav and Bihar is heading for polls in few months, his political rivals will ask this question day and night. Now, only time will tell (and polls will tell) how effectively Nitish will be able to counter this question.

Nitish-Modi rivalry to surge: Though Narendra Modi tweeted to congratulate Nitish Kumar after his swearing-in ceremony and Nitish Kumar said the differences he had with Modi were ideological in nature and there was nothing personal, the history of Nitish-Modi rivalry says another episode is in making with the upcoming assembly polls in Bihar.

And we saw its first signs today when, after taking oath, Nitish told everyone that the mandate of 2010 was in his name only.

Now, Bihar is a make or break electoral proposition for both, the BJP and the JD(U).

After the humiliating loss in Delhi, the BJP must win Bihar to bounce back in the race of becoming a major political force and that cannot happen without having a winning or a major presence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two state that count for 120 Lok Sabha seats and 37 Rajya Sabha members.

For Nitish, who had tied his political future with Modi’s political prospects, he is already on the back foot, retracting on his ‘quit rhetoric’ of last year.

With Modi having the advantage of the general elections win, a loss to Modi in Bihar polls would throw Nitish on the political periphery of Bihar and he would find in the similar situation Lalu Yadav is in.

Both, Modi and Nitish have their ‘make or break’ reasons to take on each other in the Bihar polls and each of them will try all to outdo the other.

And for Jitan Ram Manjhi, the chief minister till February 21, he was always a non-entity in Bihar’s politics before his sudden elevation. But his acts soon made it clear that Nitish had miscalculated in reading him. The ‘perceived yes man’ soon started spreading out, undoing moves by Nitish Kumar, transferring officials, installing his family members and making overtures to reach out to others including the BJP. It was soon going to be ‘enough is enough’ for Nitish Kumar to digest any further. His ‘yes man’ was working to dig his master’s grounds and the master was feeling increasingly unsettled. And it was just a matter of days.

Now, how much relevant Manjhi is going to remain will be gauged by the outcome of the polls only.

Though the BJP was seen in a tight spot on its decision to support Manjhi in the trust vote, that it could take only a day before, on February 19, after Manjhi’s equally sudden demotion on February 20, the day of the floor test when Manjhi resigned to flunk the test, the party breathed easy.

Supporting Manjhi had the inherent risk of alienating many caste blocks in the caste-ridden politics of Bihar. Also, going with someone like Manjhi, who is perceived as an inefficient leader with a trail of corruption and nepotism to talk about, could have alienated the young and the educated voters from the middle class.

Now, with the relief from Manjhi’s volte-face, the BJP, in fact, can expect to gain some good political mileage. With the Lok Janshakti Party and Ram Vilas Paswan, the BJP is already in comfortable position on Dalit votes with Paswans forming some 31% of Bihar’s Dalits.

Now, through Manjhi, the BJP would try to alienate another chunk of the Dalit voters away from Nitish Kumar. And Manjhi as a humiliated Dalit leader leading a front against Nitish Kumar would be a perfect beginning.

Bihar is heading for interesting, colourful political events in the run-up to the assembly polls.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BIHAR: THE STAGE IS SET FOR TOMORROW

The stage is set for Friday.

The BJP has finally opened up on its stand and is going to support Jitan Ram Manjhi in the floor test tomorrow, though dilly-dallying on the issue has put BJP in a tight spot, irrespective of what the party strategists feel.

The effective strength in the 243 member Bihar assembly is 233 with 10 vacant seats that include eight MLAs barred from voting by the Patna High Court. Manjhi needs support of 117 MLAs to sail through. But, going by the reports (and not by his claims that he has the number), Manjhi’s count is not going beyond 104, 87 of the BJP, 12 of the JD(U) and 5 others. Nitish, on the other hand is claiming support of 130 MLAs, including the RJD, Congress and others.

Politics of ‘no friends or foes’ has no room for ethical practices. The one in position to squeeze in the maximum ground, even if by adopting unethical practices, goes about doing so openly.

And it is on open display again and Bihar is theatre this time.

So, Manjhi, the chief minister of Bihar, who was installed by Nitish Kumar post the Lok Sabha polls, is taking on Nitish Kumar to keep him from coming back. He is making tall promises, unabashedly populist and burdening to the state exchequer, to lure voters. He is making open offers to MLAs to make them ministers. He is openly attacking Nitish Kumar.

And so, Nitish Kumar, the Janata Dal (United) leader and the former chief minister, who resigned after taking moral responsibility of party’s humiliating loss in the Lok Sabha polls, got comfortably the post of the ‘Leader of Opposition’ for his party today with the Bihar assembly Speaker being from his party, on his side.

Before it, Nitish had another political realization that Jitanram Manjhi, a leader with a controversial past, corruption and misappropriation taints and allegations and having no mass base out of his constituency, was doing irreversible damage to the state of Bihar. The realization dawned upon Nitish within only nine months of meticulously choosing Manjhi to run the state. Also, within nine months only, Nitish had a rethink of his ethical call to vacate the office as he tried to barge in the chief-ministerial office after Manjhi refused to accept his ‘marching orders’. But Nitish’s inner call was aborted mid-way by the High Court paving the way for the floor test.

And so, the Bhartiya Janata Party, the long-term partner of the JD(U) which took separate ways before the Lok Sabha polls after Nitish didn’t accept Narendra Modi’s projection as the prime-ministerial nominee of the National Democratic Alliance, courted Manjhi and propped up avenues and support for him to take on Nitish and the JD(U).

It can be said what could have been a smooth comeback for Nitish after the ‘rethink realization’ to lead his party in the assembly polls due in the last months of this year, has been made a political spectacle that has had the whole country glued.

So, we have Manjhi claiming and luring Mahadalits asking them to practice Gandhigiri come what may. He is making desperate pleas, statements and propositions to remain politically relevant. He has been camping in Delhi and Patna to request BJP to come to his aid.

We have Nitish Kumar serving ultimatum to the Bihar Governor and taking his MLAs to New Delhi to parade them before President Pranab Mukherjee. His spokespersons are on duty round the clock to take on Manjhi and BJP. He first claimed chief minster’s chair but after the High Court intervention, settled with the LoP one, hoping to corner tomorrow what he has been eyeing.

We have BJP that has muddled the Nitish’s comeback plan. The party that crafted and enjoyed the internal ramblings in the JD(U) was consistently in verbal war with the later. And is now crying hoarse and taking the legal route to reclaim its LoP position.

Another colour in all this is an MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, an ally of Nitish Kumar, who has taken a hostile line against the JD(U). He is supporting Manjhi not only vocally, but is also active in trying bringing in MLAs to his camp.

Interestingly, we have not heard much of Lalu Yadav all through this.

The clarity on what colour of this political kaleidoscope will prevail will emerge tomorrow.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/