Bihar: Is Nitish riding piggyback on Lalu to fight the BJP?

The case of Nitish, a man not known to be forgiving of his political rivals, riding piggyback on Lalu is not difficult to explain. His immediate rival is the Narendra Modi-led BJP. If the party wins the assembly polls in 2015, it might be the end of the road for him.

Manoj Chaurasia August 15, 2014 16:48:25 IST
Bihar: Is Nitish riding piggyback on Lalu to fight the BJP?

Patna: The scene said it all. At the election rally in Hajipur on Monday, JD(U)'s de facto boss Nitish Kumar waited with rare patience for RJD chief Lalu Yadav to turn up. When the later arrived finally, Nitish stood up reverentially to greet his one-time foe. He was unusually warm and looked visibly happy. As the friendship of the season was born, the onlookers were left wondering who needed whom more in these politically desperate times.

Bihar Is Nitish riding piggyback on Lalu to fight the BJP

RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar. PTI

While both Mandal warriors face an existential crisis in the face of a resurgent BJP, Nitish Kumar appears to be more precariously positioned at this juncture. In the general elections Lalu's RJD more or less held on to its core support base despite the Modi wave. He secured a shade more than 20 percent of the vote share while Nitish's party shrunk to 15 percent despite being in power in the state. Nitish was never a mass leader. Faced with irrelevance in politics he needed to ride piggyback on someone popular to revive himself. Lalu was the obvious choice.

To make matters worse for the JD(U) leader his social engineering formula lies in a state of collapse - even the Kurmis, his caste men, deserted him in the parliamentary polls. He had a rather cold response from the Dalit and Ati-pichhda (extremely backward) class voters who account for some 15 and 32 percent of the total state’s population respectively.  Some 40 percent of the Dalit votes in Bihar went to the NDA in the general election. Lalu still enjoys huge support of the Muslim-Yadav combination. With him on his side Nitish only stands to gain.

“Unlike Lalu, Nitish has never been a mass leader and hence he finds the deal with RJD more fruitful. In any case, Nitish is going to benefit more from this friendship,” feels prominent social scientist and political observer Sachindra Narayan.

Another reason was Nitish found Lalu's company agreeable is the latter is not a challenger for chief ministership of Bihar. Lalu has now gone out of contention after being disqualified by the court from contesting polls for the next one decade and the masses are just not ready to accept his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister.

"I would like to see Nitish Kumar as chief minister and prime minister at the Centre as he is the most popular leader. But it depends on him (Nitish Kumar) whether he likes state or central politics," Chief Minister Manjhi told the media last week asserting, “Whatever alliance partners think, it depends on them but for us, Nitish Kumar is the most acceptable leader”. Coming from the most dependable party colleague, the statement could not have been made without a design.

The case of Nitish, a man not known to be forgiving of his political rivals, riding piggyback on Lalu is not difficult to explain. His immediate rival is the Narendra Modi-led BJP. If the party wins the assembly polls in 2015, it might be the end of the road for him.

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