Bihar Mahagathbandhan at risk: Nitish Kumar may lose a friend not office if Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal pulls out

Is the Grand Alliance between RJD and JD(U) in Bihar over?

Not really, but it's difficult to say how long will it remain intact, especially because of the war of words that followed after Bihar chief minister and party chief Nitish Kumar decided to step out of the UPA fold and support NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential election.

 Bihar Mahagathbandhan at risk: Nitish Kumar may lose a friend not office if Lalu Prasads Rashtriya Janata Dal pulls out

File image of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar. PTI

But if the Grand Alliance in Bihar collapses, and the three parties that form this alliance — Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD, Congress and the Nitish-led JD(U) — decide to go separate ways, where does it leave them?

Will Nitish be able to retain power with the help of BJP, the party with which he seems to have formed an alternate alliance of sorts? Will the RJD, in association with the Congress, form the next government? Or, is Bihar headed towards an early Assembly election or an interim presidential rule till the next elections are finalised.

It may be too early to comment anything, more so since both Nitish and Lalu are seasoned leaders and masters of political manoeuvring. What we can do, however, is analyse the chances of the three parties, in case they do decide to go separate ways.

Seat allocations in Bihar Assembly

In the 243-member Bihar Legislative Assembly, RJD is still the largest party with a strength of 80 MLAs. Nitish's JD(U) is the second largest party with 71 MLAs, followed by BJP with 53 MLAs, Congress with 27 MLAs and five MLAs from other parties.

For any party or alliance to prove majority to form a government, a minimum of 122 seats are required.

There's no hope for an RJD-Congress alliance simply because they don't have the required number of the MLAs. Even after coming together JD(U) and RJD remain short by 15 MLAs. The other parties are also of no use for RJD as they have just five MLAs among them.

The only other two parties with any hope of forming an alliance, in case the Congress-RJD-JD(U) Grand Alliance collapses, are JD(U) and BJP. The JD(U) already has 71 MLAs, so to form/retain power without the help of RJD and the Congress, Nitish will need at least 51 MLAs.

This leaves BJP as the only other party with the required number — in fact more than sufficient with its 53 MLAs — in the Bihar Assembly to help JD(U) remain in power.

In short, both RJD and Congress will be affected the most if the troika in Bihar is broken, and Nitish decides to go with the BJP.

But if Nitish does that, it would mean the JD(U) party chief will have to eat its own words. Just take a look at this tweet that Nitish has shared when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had arrived in Bihar for campaigning:

That's not all though. There were also a series of Phir Ek Bar slogans like "Bohot hua jumlo ka vaar, fir ek baar Nitish Kumar", Aage badhta rahe Bihar, fir ek baar Nitish Kumar, Sabko samman aur adhikar, phir ek baar Nitish Kumar, etc.

But not all campaign slogans will be useless for Nitish, he could easily rely on his popular campaign song, Bihar me bahar ho, Nitish Kumar ho, sung by Neeti Mohan, but this time with BJP as an alliance partner. And knowing Nitish's political acumen, it's unlikely that he won't have envisioned a play if it comes to that. The question is whether or not it includes the BJP.

The best thing that RJD and Congress can do at this time is to gulp the bitter pill named Ram Nath Kovind and remain in power in Bihar.

As for JD(U), he may lose an ally and friend if Lalu decides to call it quit. But for the section of voters who might have voted for Nitish for the non-BJP alliance would perhaps feel cheated the most if Nitish again becomes the darling of the NDA. Although now it seems that the political tempest in Bihar is somewhat indicating towards a no love lost kind of situation between Lalu and Nitish, knowing their political shrewdness it won't be surprising to see a JD(U)-BJP government again or the two coming together in the future perhaps for some other political masterstroke.

Updated Date: Jun 28, 2017 12:56:31 IST