A two-pronged political strategy devised by Janata Dal (United) leaders outmanoeuvred the reluctant RJD leader Lalu Prasad, who agreed not just to an alliance but conceded the Bihar chief ministerial candidature to incumbent Nitish Kumar on Monday.
Lalu addressed a joint press conference with Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav here, and the declaration about Nitish leading the alliance was finally made.
Nitish separately addressed the media in Patna and said a six-member panel will soon begin a dialogue on seat-sharing. Besides the RJD and the JD(U), the other constituents of this alliance are the Congress, the NCP and the CPI.
“I am very happy about the unity of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. Nitish Kumar will be the chief ministerial candidate of the JD(U)-RJD combine in Bihar,” Mulayam announced. The SP chief further said it was Lalu who proposed Nitish’s name for the top job in the State.
“Laluji has proposed Nitish Kumar’s name for chief ministership. Laluji said he will campaign. There are no differences and we will not allow any differences to crop up,” he added. Lalu, on his part, said he cannot contest elections himself and there is no other CM contender from his family or party.
“There are no differences between us (him and Nitish),” he said, downplaying earlier remarks of some RJD members, particularly senior leaders such as Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who had publicly rejected talks of making Nitish the CM candidate.
That today’s decision was a tough one for Lalu was reflected by his statement that he was ready to drink “poison” to crush the “cobra” of communalism.
“I want to assure the secular forces and the people of India that in this battle of Bihar, I am ready to gulp everything. I am ready to drink all types of poison. I am determined to crush the hood of this snake, this cobra of communalism,” said the former Bihar Chief Minister.
With this formal announcement, the “secular” alliance in Bihar seems well prepared to counter the BJP and its allies.
The vote share division as per the 2014 general elections shows the scales tilted in their favour — RJD (20.46 per cent vote), JD(U) (16.04 per cent), Congress (8.56 per cent), NCP (1.22 per cent) and CPI (1.17 per cent).
High vote share
Even if the CPI is not part of this front — given that the Left parties want to forge a separate alliance comprising the CPI, CPI(M) and the CPI(ML)(Liberation), which has some presence in scattered pockets in Bihar — the “secular” alliance share still comes up to about 46 per cent of the total votes in Bihar.
The cumulative NDA vote share is just over 36 per cent, including the BJP (29.86 per cent), LJP (6.50 per cent) and the RLSP with 0.12 per cent of the votes.
JD(U) leaders were chuffed with the proceedings, the result of almost two prolonged weeks of getting Lalu to agree to the alliance as well as Nitish’s candidature.
According to party sources, pressure was put on Lalu through two different strategies. One involved Sharad Yadav camping in Bihar and getting RJD MLAs and cadre to lobby with Lalu.
The second part of this strategy involved Nitish getting the Congress to agree to his candidature.
The Congress had aligned with Lalu in Bihar in the 2014 general elections. The RJD won four seats and 20.46 per cent of the vote share while the Congress won two seats and secured 8.56 per cent votes. The JD(U), with a total vote share of 16.04 per cent, reached out to the Congress and isolated Lalu.
The local unit of the Congress declared its willingness to accept Nitish as the leader of the secular alliance in Bihar.
The final straw was Nitish’s meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday.
Lalu too had been trying to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi but that did not materialise till the alliance was sealed in Bihar. Lalu was expected to meet her on Monday evening.
Sharad Yadav was, in the meantime, working on the RJD cadre and legislators. In the two weeks that he was stationed in Bihar, he convinced a number of RJD MLAs to lobby with Lalu to agree to the alliance.
A JD(U) source said that over one lakh SMSs were sent to Lalu by his supporters, party members and legislators to convince him to agree to the alliance and Nitish’s candidature.
“The battle for Bihar is like the Battle of Plassey. It will be a decisive victory of the secular forces against the BJP; we will stop the BJP’s march in Bihar,” Sharad Yadav told BusinessLine.