Patna Durbar

Just how long will Lalu and Nitish remain best friends?

Beyond the shadow of the BJP, will RJD chief insist on keeping key ministerial berths with his family members?

 |  Patna Durbar  |  3-minute read |   27-10-2015
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Doubting Thomases may have predicted doom for the alliance of CM Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad because of their acrimonious past but they appear to have struck a good rapport with each other in the middle of high-voltage campaign for the ongoing Bihar assembly polls.

The battle-scarred veterans of many elections are now working as a team to halt the BJP’s upward march in the state. They not only consult each other on their electoral strategies but also share the feedback of their respective campaigns on a regular basis.

This has come as a revelation of sorts not only for the political pundits but also for their opponents in the state. Earlier, the BJP had no reason to believe that the duo, who loved to hate each other for two decades, would hit it off like long-lost friends and launch their joint mission with serious intent to to take on their common enemy. It had apparently expected the JD (U) – Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance to flounder under the pressure of irritants such as seatsharing formula, leadership issue and the clash of interests within the grand alliance.

But Lalu and Nitish did not let the baggage of their past weigh them down. After facing the disastrous Lok Sabha polls last year, they knew that they had to stay together if they wanted to keep BJP out of power in Bihar. In fact, Nitish and Lalu had opened their channels for talks for a possible reunion hours after NDA swept the Lok Sabha polls in 2014.

True, it was sheer political pressure that brought them together for the first time since Nitish stomped out of Lalu’s Chief ministerial bungalow in a huff more than 20 years ago to chart his independent political course. But they could clearly read the writing on the wall last year. They realised that they stood no chance against the BJP if they contested the polls separately but they would pose a formidable challenge to the Narendra Modi-led BJP if they joined forces. It was primarily this belief that helped them stay together even after the the Janata Parivar merger fiasco caused by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s exit.

Lalu and Nitish have jumped to each other’s defence whenever they faced tricky situations. When a controversy arose as to whether Nitish would remain the CM if his party got less seats than the RJD, Lalu wasted no time to clear the confusion by backing him to the hilt.

The CM, on his part, tried to shield Lalu from the incessant attacks of the BJP over the jungle raj barbs. He has, insisted the RJD president had never interfered in his work ever since he extended support to the JD-U government 15 months ago. He even defended Lalu’s acerbic attacks on the BJP saying the saffron party leaders would no longer be allowed to make onesided attacks. The duo’s detractors are confident the Lalu-Nitish bromance would come to an end after their defeat in the polls on Nov 8. But they are optimistic about their poll prospects.

In a nutshell, the Bihar polls have evolved into a psephologist’s nightmare with a clear picture unlikely to emerge before the counting of votes. However, this has raised some questions about the different post-poll possibilities. What will happen if the results are contrary to the NDA’s expectations? Will Lalu give Nitish a free rein to run the state and himself don the mantle of a guide or will he insist on having his pound of flesh by demanding key ministerial berths for his family members?

Once their mission is accomplished, will Lalu and Nitish continue to show the same bonhomie that has been the hallmark of their campaign? Above all, what will happen to their alliance if the NDA comes out on top in this election? Will they drift apart again or remain united? It is difficult to answer these questions until the people’s verdict is out. But whatever be the outcome, politics in Bihar will keep everybody’s attention riveted in the months to come.


Giridhar Jha Giridhar Jha @giridhar_jha

Senior Journalist at Mail Today.

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