In politics, it is said that friends and foes are never permanent. And Bihar politics has been a manifestation of the same with political parties realigning loyalties. More recently, a rift within Janata Dal - United (JD(U)) came wide open on Thursday, with senior leader Sharad Yadav claiming that the 'original party' is still with him.
At a function at Sonepur, Yadav said, "Sarkari JD(U) is with Nitish Kumar while the original party is with me. The original JD(U) in association with secular forces would form a government after the next general election."
The statement was an open challenge to the JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar threatening a split within the party. However, it is worth reflecting that what indeed constitutes this new, or rather 'original' JD(U), when Nitish Kumar claims that the decision to ally with the BJP was taken by the entire Bihar unit.
Two Rajya Sabha MPs Ali Anwar Ansari and Virender Kumar have openly voiced their opposition to Nitish's decision and both are in touch with Yadav. According to Sharad Yadav's loyalists, several party MLAs and MLCs are in touch with him. But apart from the two Rajya Sabha MPs, no party leader has pledged open support to Yadav.
Yadav, however, was although welcomed by hundreds of his supporters, including some local level JD(U) leaders, as he came out of the Patna airport prominent faces from the party were tellingly missing. Two former JD(U) legislators, including former minister Ramai Ram and Rambadan Rai, were also in the crowd. But not a single JD(U) legislator was present.
In Sonevan too, the first stop of his ambitious mass contact campaign, no JD(U) leaders were found in attendance but the local RJD legislator Ramanuj Prasad was present, according to NDTV.
In Gujarat, however, JD(U) leader Arun Kumar Srivastava, "whose role in the highly contentious Gujarat Rajya Sabha, earlier this week, led to his sacking as general secretary of the party’s unit in that state, has claimed that Yadav enjoys the support of nearly 20 JD(U) MLAs in Bihar," Hindustan Times reported. JD(U)'s Gujarat MLA Chhotubhai Vasava, who went against the party wish and voted for Ahmed Patel, may also switch sides.
The number claimed, if true, is enough to shake Nitish government whose party right now has 71 MLAs in the Assembly.
Yadav had earlier too expressed his dissatisfaction over Nitish's decision to realign with the BJP, ditching the Bihar Mahagathbandhan, for which Yadav had "campaigned extensively."
"The agreement of 'gathbandhan' (grand alliance) was for five years which was broken...I am hurt by this. I continue to stand for the 'gathbandhan'," he had said.
The JD(U) on its part has chosen to distance itself from Yadav's overtures to the RJD.
"Sharad Yadav's visit to Bihar is his personal initiative. He is not visiting Bihar on party's invitation. The JD(U) has nothing to do with it," JD(U) state president Vashisht Narain Singh said.
The tepid veiled attacks turned sharper as Yadav upped the ante.
"Sharad Yadav is compromising with corruption by supporting the Grand Alliance in Bihar," JD(U) chief spokesperson Sanjay Singh said.
Singh also raised question over Yadav's decision to hold a national seminar against communalism in Delhi on 17 August, two days ahead of the JD(U) national executive meeting in Patna.
Another JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan said it is difficult to understand why Yadav is backing leaders with corruption charges against them. "It is for him to take a stand — but how has corruption become 'shishtachar' (courtesy) for him?"
Another spokesman Neeraj Kumar warned Yadav and said, "Party is always stronger than a leader. He will soon realise that. "
The national executive meeting of the JD(U) is scheduled on 19 August and a decision might be taken on Yadav before that. The party had extended an invitation to him also when it seemed that he had reconciled with Nitish. But Yadav himself is in two minds and has said that he will take a decision about participating in the party's meeting on the basis of responses he would receive during his tour.
Sources, however, reveal that the JD(U) is not about to grant the expulsion that Yadav seeks, according to the NDTV report quoted earlier. "Nitish Kumar, they said, is likely to suspend Mr Yadav, which will checkmate him."
Going by the rule book, if Yadav is expelled he can retain his Rajya Sabha membership, which will be lost if he resigns from the party. On the other hand, if Nitish in his capacity of JD(U) national president suspends Yadav, he will have to abide by party whips in Parliament, failing which he could be disqualified.
The game of checkers being played between Yadav and Nitish, both JD(U)'s finding members, is only ironic. It was Yadav, who had propped Nitish up as the party's national president after the Bihar elections were won as part of the Grand Alliance, according to Deccan Chronicle.
Whatever happened in the past, Yadav and Nitish had maintained a veil on their differences as both became two poles in the Bihar-based party. Yadav had stood by Nitish when he decided to end a 17-year-old long marriage with NDA, and he supported him when Nitish decided to ally with his arch rival Lalu Prasad.
In fact, Sushil Modi of the BJP too had referred to Yadav as his political guru in the past. "I respect Sharad Yadav as my political guru," Sushil Modi had said in July, 2015, according to Economic Times.
According to the article, it was Yadav who had played an important role in stitching up the alliance with BJP the first time and making Sushil the deputy chief minister of Bihar, an arrangement he is so vehemently opposed to, today. It was Yadav who had convinced Sushil to return to state politics in 2005, where Yadav believed that Sushil will have a larger role to play.
However, as the wheels of time turn, speculations are rife that Yadav may not split the party but instead merge his faction with the RJD. While the rebel faction, on its own may not have had an impact on Bihar politics as such, apart from damaging Nitish temporarily, an alliance with Lalu's RJD can offer stiff competition to JD(U)-BJP combine in the 2020 state elections.
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2017 16:05 PM