RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s curious antics over the past two weeks seem to be aimed at derailing the prospect of a Janata Parivar alliance which directly benefits the BJP in poll-bound Bihar.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Lalu present a challenge to the BJP in the State because of the formidable backward caste-Muslim consolidation that is likely to be achieved through their alliance.
But, in case that does not fructify and there is a three-way contest, the BJP stands to benefit by way of its own forward caste vote combined with the Dalit and Mahadalit support base of Ram Vilas Paswan and JD(U) detractor Jitan Ram Manjhi, who has sidled up to the NDA since Nitish expelled him from the JD(U). Upendra Kushwaha brings his share of Most Backward Castes (MBCs) to the NDA’s kitty.
But the Janata Parivar merger or even the prospect of an alliance is being disrupted by repeated damaging statements by Lalu or his close associates.
So far, the JD(U) has treated these statements as Lalu’s posturing for a better deal in the alliance. However, the growing feeling now is that these statements on critical issues such as Nitish’s candidature as Chief Minister and formula for seat-sharing between the two parties are driven more than the desire to extract a better bargain. A highly-placed JD(U) even told BusinessLine that Lalu is being “manipulated” by the BJP.
This source cited some specific instances for the JD(U) suspecting a “BJP hand” in Lalu’s volte face over the alliance recently.
He said the RJD leader had earlier displayed a level of maturity and generosity of spirit when he saved the JD(U) government after the BJP’s withdrawal of support.
Lalu went on to support the JD(U) during the Rajya Sabha elections as well.
Seat-sharing formula However, Lalu’s close associate and former Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has recently been at the forefront in making controversial statements.
He first said the seat-sharing formula between the RJD and the JDU(U) should be based on last year’s parliamentary polls, which favours Lalu’s party.
The JD(U) had performed better in the 2014 Assembly by-polls while the RJD’s performance was better in the Lok Sabha polls.
Singh’s second comment was a direct hit at Nitish, who he said, should not be projected as CM candidate.
Amidst these, Lalu himself riled the JD(U) by making conciliatory noises towards Manjhi, who has recently been meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
“He (Lalu) seems to be under tremendous pressure. It is either the criminal case against him that some people can use. Or there is something else that we are not able to understand.
“All I can say is that Lalu is no longer working for a secular alliance,” said a JD(U) leader who did not wish to be named.
Although JD(U) president Sharad Yadav has been camping in Madhepura for the past couple of days to iron out differences with Nitish, the fate of the Janata Parivar alliance is hanging by a thin thread in Bihar.