PATNA: Both are seasoned politicians and know when to strike. Emboldened by the magnificent performance in the recently-held Bihar assembly elections, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (JD-U) had declared to test political waters in the UP state polls scheduled early next year.
While Kumar has already visited UP and is in talks with some likeminded parties to form a powerful alliance against the BJP, his new-found friend Prasad is yet to decide over the next course of action despite his announcement to kick up a major campaign against Narendra Modi from Varanasi, PM’s home Lok Sabha constituency. Why has Prasad now gone suddenly cold to an alliance with his partner in UP? Observers cite three reasons behind it.
The first and foremost reason is that UP is currently ruled by a party whose national head Mulayam Singh Yadav is the “Samadhi” of the RJD president. Prasad’s youngest daughter Raj Lxami is married to Yadav’s grandnephew Tej Pratap, MP from Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat. Further, the SP has announced to go it alone in the elections, and not to be a part of any alliance. It’s quite obvious now Prasad doesn’t want to annoy his ‘samadhi’ by joining hands with Kumar who has to settle political scores with Yadav whose party first walked out of the Grand Alliance before fielding candidates against it in the recent Bihar polls. Prasad also knows his party has no base in UP and it will simply be a foolish act if it decides to contests elections there.
“Everybody knows Rabri Devi, being a traditional woman, has always kept her personal relations much above politics, and Lalu just can’t afford to ignore his wife’s feelings,” explained prominent social scientist Sachindra Narayan.
Secondly, the JD-U has been giving more credit to Kumar’s leadership than RJD’s strong “Muslim-Yadav” (M-Y) vote-bank for Grand Alliance’s victory in Bihar elections. It claims the Grand Alliance came to power because of Kumar’s focus on governance, his no-nonsense image and his persona of being a “vikas puroosh” (development man)—a claim which is contested by the analysts. Experts believe but for the solid M-Y vote-bank of the RJD, it would have been simply difficult for the JD-U to make a bounce-back. Their opinion is not off the mark. Barely 18 months back, the JD-U had been reduced to rubble, winning only two seats in the LS polls—a loss of 18 seats. It is believed the RJD chief now wants to see how the JD-U fares in the UP without his support.
Thirdly, the JD-U has also given due credit to IT expert Prashant Kishore’s poll strategies than RJD chief’s voters management on the ground. The JD-U had hired Kishore just before assembly elections to brand Kumar’s image and then rewarded him by getting him appointed as advisor to the chief minister in a clear admission that the Grand Alliance’s victory was solely because of his. It deserves mentioning here that how Prasad literally sweated it out in the open sun, making fervent appeals to his caste men, Yadavs, to ignore decade-old animosity towards Kurmis, fellow caste men of Kumar, and come together to defeat BJP in the elections. Eventually, his appeals worked as Yadav shunned caste rivalry and solidly voted for the Grand Alliance. Here again Prasad perhaps wants to see Kishore’s calibre by tactically staying away from the JD-U, observers.
“By appointing Prashant Kishore as his advisor, Nitish only wants to give low or no credit to Lalu for Grand Alliance’s victory in Bihar. He seems to be indirectly saying that it was Kishore who played the key role in Bihar victory. And, Lalu indeed must be feeling offended to this although he has supported Nitish’s move in public,” quipped another expert wishing not to be quoted.
(The author is the State Bureau Chief of The Statesman based at Patna)