The different factions of the newly formed Janata Parivar pulled back from the brink on Monday and agreed to back incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar for another term.
The differences threatened to spoil alliance talks at the weekend with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad appearing unwilling to endorse Kumar as chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming election to the state assembly of Bihar. However, on Monday, Prasad decided to back Kumar’s candidacy and also clarified that neither he nor any of his family members would be a contender for the post. Still, the alliance has now to resolve differences over seat-sharing. The alliance was forged recently as a joint front against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—considered the frontrunner in the election.
It took a while, but in the end two rivals in Bihar politics have joined hands to fight the forthcoming assembly elections in the state. Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar and leader of the Janata Dal (United), or JDU, and Lalu Prasad, leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) will work together in a coalition that hopes to come to power in Patna again. It is an old socialist experiment being repeated.
The coalition had a long gestation period—almost a year. Some issues took time to resolve. For example, who will be the chief minister of Bihar? On Monday, both parties agreed on Kumar’s name. The overall complexion of the coalition was, however, always clear: Secularism and social justice are the two pillars on which the arrangement rests.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Monday supported the decision to project Nitish Kumar as the CM candidate for the upcoming Bihar Assembly elections. “We chose Nitish Kumar as Bihar chief ministerial candidate to fight against the communal forces. That’s why I have made this sacrifice so that people can stay away from BJP. Since we have agreed on CM candidate, we will sort out the issue of seat sharing,” he said.
Describing the alliance between Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal ahead of Bihar polls as a gimmick, Union Minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday blamed Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s regime for creating chaos in the state. “This alliance between JD(U) and RJD before the Bihar elections is a nautanki (gimmick),” Paswan, Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister, said.
“If anyone is to be blamed for the chaos in Bihar, then it is the 15-year-old rule of Lalu Yadav and Rabri and the 10-year-rule of Nitish Kumar,” Paswan, who heads LJP, a key partner in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), said. Bihar will not benefit from the coming together of Kumar and Prasad, he said.
“They (Nitish and Manjhi) are fighting over mangoes and here you (Nitish) are sending mangoes to Rahul Gandhi,” Paswan said, referring to the meeting between the Congress leader and the former Bihar Chief Minister. “Lalu cannot become the chief minister, he is out of jail on bail. Neither can his wife Rabri nor their son or daughter… They can’t become CM,” Paswan said.
NDA will win the Assembly polls in Bihar with a two-third majority, Paswan said.
Terming Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal as “defeated forces”, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today described their alliance as “irrelevant” and said the Bihar polls will be a repeat of last year’s general elections. “The alliance between the defeated forces of JD-U and RJD is irrelevant. They tried to stop BJP in the Lok Sabha elections last year, but failed. India (national polls) will repeat itself in the Bihar Assembly election,” Union Minister for Skill Development and Training Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters.
Rudy also slammed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for teaming up with his once detractor Lalu Prasad. “The entire political credibility of Nitish Kumar was based on his campaign against ‘jungleraj’ of RJD. It was the basis of his rule here. He has lost his entire credibility by shaking hands with Lalu Prasad. The public will give them a befitting reply in the forthcoming polls,” he said.
Rudy was here to highlight the work done by the NDA government at the Centre in the first year of its tenure and the initiatives by his ministry in skill development. Speaking on the JD-U-RJD alliance, Rudy said it was “a case of zero plus zero is equal to zero” phenomenon as the people of Bihar were fed up with the Congress, RJD and JD-U rules.
Calling the coming together of Kumar and Prasad as an “unholy alliance”, Rudy said: “the people of Bihar now want a big change. BJP is a natural option in this scenario and they will provide an opportunity to it. They (people) will not brook any effort to check BJP from coming to power in the state.” The Union Minister argued that the BJP did not see ‘JD (U) – RJD’ combination as a “challenge” and believed that “caste equations fail in front of ‘people’s equations”.