The reunion of scattered socialists — the lot who went their own ways after the sudden fall of the Janata Dal government led by VP Singh government in 1990 — could indeed be described as a significant development.
The BJP may reject the new entity as the coming together of the “the defeated, distressed, tired rank opportunists having nothing to do with any political ideology and ethics” but it looks quite formidable in the context of Bihar, at least arithmetically.
The BJP combine enjoys the backing of upper castes, who constitute about 15 percent of the electorate, and may count on the support of Dalits (four percent) because of its association with Ram Vilas Paswan and a section of backward class voters due to the Upendra Kushwaha factor. Against them, the RJD led by Lalu Prasad has its strong support base among the Yadavs and upper caste Muslims while the JD(U) headed by Nitish Kumar has the backing of the extremely backward castes, Mahadalits, backward Muslims and a section of upper castes.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the parties polled around 36 percent of votes and if you add the total 8.5 percent votes polled by the Congress, the total votes polled comes to around 45 percent, which is a little over six percent more than 38.8 percent votes polled by the NDA. It is this calculation which is said to have acted as a cementing force between the two regional parties—the RJD and the JD(U)—which have been fighting against each other since for the past decade.
Their morale got a boost when they emerged victorious in six out of 10 seats in the assembly by-polls in August last year — held barely four months after the BJP gained absolute majority in the LS polls riding on the massive Narendra Modi wave.
The worries within the BJP and its allies over the new party are palpable. However, the chances of the success of the new party depends a lot on how it accommodates the interests of Lalu and his family. The RJD chief is caught in a bitter succession war within the party and the first family.
For the past two months, Pappu Yadav, one of the four party MPs, has gone on repeatedly holding his rallies across the state to claim he was the real inheritor of the RJD ignoring clarification from Lalu that his son was his natural “heir”.
“I am the real inheritor of Laluji's legacy as I am the true follower of his ideologies,” Yadav, an RJD MP from Madhepura claims, rejecting explanation from the RJD president that his son would be his “heir”. “He (Lalu) should understand that in democracy, such issue is settled by the masses. And, RJD is not a monarchy in which a successor can be nominated. Well, I can’t be the inheritor of Laluji’s family property but indeed I am a true inheritor of his political struggles,” says Yadav who has also questioned the merger of the socialists describing it as coming together of two leaders “hungry for power”.
There is logic in his support. “Could he (Lalu) become the inheritor of Karpoori Thakur and Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav and reached this position if these leaders had followed the line now Laluji is talking about?” asks Yadav, suggesting Lalu’s children to first follow the paths of struggles to gain political experience.
This is not the end of the story. Even Lalu’s children are fighting among themselves to become his “successor”. While his daughter Misa Bharti has already made her political intention clear by contesting the last LS polls, his sons—Tej Pratap and Tejashwi Yadav— are said to be locked in a bitter family feud over the issue. Initially, Lalu had tried to pass on the baton to his cricketer son Tejashwi while settling his eldest son Tej Pratap in a motorcycle business.
However, Tej Pratap is said to have gotten politically ambitious and is staking claim for the post to be vacated by his father, pushing his younger brother to the background. This was witnessed during the national executive meet of the RJD held in Hotel Maurya earlier this month when no member from Lalu’s family was visible at the meeting except Tej Pratap.
What is further alarming, more than 15 top Yadav leaders have dumped the RJD in the past few months, apparently not impressed with the idea of merger. Observers say such desertions had not taken place even during the worst phase of the party possibly between 2005 and 2010 when the RJD lost its political clout both at the Centre and Bihar, its home turf. Even during last year’s LS polls, the party’s vote share had looked intact but suddenly, however, there seems to be a sort of desperation within the Yadav leaders to dump the party.
This, sources say, has a lot to do with Lalu's move to accommodate his family members in the party. This problem could get transferred to the new party. In effect, it means the Yadav vote bank of the RJD might suffer erosion. It does not augur well for the new party.
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Updated Date: Apr 17, 2015 13:54:58 IST