Janata Parivar: India's unstable Third Front and its evolution through mergers and splits

Even as the Janata Dal (United) played the central character in the intriguing political drama in Bihar, the party itself seemed to be tearing at the seams. While Nitish Kumar became chief minister yet again, his cosying up to BJP did not sit well with a senior leader of the party, Sharad Yadav. Yadav called it a betrayal of the people's mandate and said the trust of 11 crore people was broken. The party for its part has asked him to stop making comments which "cross limits" and said such words were objectionable and uncomfortable for the party.

The conflicting actions of the senior leader and the party have given rise to speculation that the party might be heading to a split. Luckily (or unluckily) for them, it will not be the first time they go down this road.

A fluid concept

The collective that is known as the Janata Dal has always been more of a fluid concept. In fact, with the number of splits and mergers it has seen, it would be more accurate to collectively refer to these related parties as the Janata Parivar. The "Janata" legacy goes back to around the time of the Emergency when parties as diverse as the Swantantra Party (who promoted market-based economy) to the Socialist Party joined hands to form the Janata Party. The party also found support from the CPM and the RSS. The coalition was united less by ideology and more by a common opponent. They formed the government at the Centre but soon lost out to a resurgent Congress.

Leaders of the major parties in the latest iteration of the Janata Parivar. PTI

Leaders of the major parties in the latest iteration of the Janata Parivar. PTI

The Janata Dal started off in 1988 and was formed by VP Singh. Singh went on to lead the Janata Dal-led coalition to success in the national elections the very next year and became India's seventh prime minister.

The party saw its first split in just two years as Chandra Shekhar split away to form the Janata Dal (Socialist) and formed the government with the support of the Congress. The government didn't last long as the Congress pulled its support in just a few months.

Janata Dal leaders once again put their trust in the Congress in 1996 as HD Deve Gowda formed the government with outside support from the Congress. The Congress again pulled their support in less than a year. This time, no elections are called and another Janata Dal leader IK Gujral becomes India's prime minister.

Under Gujral's rule is when a massive split takes place in the party. The then chief minister of Bihar, Lalu Prasad was implicated in the fodder scam. After refusing to quit, Lalu eventually went on to split from the Janata Dal and formed the Rashtriya Janata Dal. The Janata Dal government fell soon after.

Interestingly, Lalu's decision to split was also caused by his clash with Sharad Yadav over the presidency of the Janata Dal, according to The Indian Express. Lalu was also at the centre of another split back in 1994, when Nitish Kumar rebelled against his control over the party in Bihar. Kumar joined hands with George Fernandes to form the Samata Party.

Post Lalu's departure, Naveen Patnaik fashioned the Odisha unit into the Biju Janata Dal in 1997 and the Karnataka unit under Deve Gowda became the Janata Dal (Secular) in 1999, says the report. The Samajwadi Party too traces its roots to the Janata Dal as Mulayam Singh Yadav had earlier been a part of Chandra Shekhar's Samajwadi Janata Party. However, Mulayam formed the Samajwadi Party in 1992 which has since become a heavy-hitter in Uttar Pradesh politics.

The Janata Dal (United), which Sharad Yadav might end up splitting, emerged from the Samata Party in 2003.

The 2015 merger

In 2015, six groups which could trace their ancestry to the Janata Dal, merged to form a new platform headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav. The parties which formed the Janata Parivar were Samajwadi Party, JD(U), RJD, INLD, JD(S) and Samajwadi Janata Party. According to Mulayam, the new national party was needed to take on the Narendra Modi government which had "failed" in fulfilling any of its big promises made during the elections.

Mulayam even talked of the good old days when he said, "Whenever we have come together, we have formed the government in Delhi. We will do it again."

The alliance did not last long as Mulayam and his Samajwadi Party decided to contest the Bihar Assembly polls on their own as he blamed Nitish Kumar for a “tilt” towards Congress.

Finally, after Nitish Kumar has joined hands with BJP to form the government in Bihar as his alliance with RJD fell through, it seems that it could be curtains on the latest iteration of the Janata Parivar.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 11, 2017 15:30 PM

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