Why Sharad Yadav revolted against Nitish Kumar

Nitish apparently lost his trust in Sharad during Jitan Ram Manjhi’s ouster as CM.

 |  4-minute read |   22-08-2017
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Four years ago in June 2013, when the JD(U) snapped ties with the BJP, Sharad Yadav, the then national president of the party, was assigned the job to formally announce the separation.

It seemed a bit cosmetic, as Nitish Kumar was the ultimate decision maker even then, but the Bihar chief minister handed over the opportunity — and the mic — to Sharad, thinking it would fit the stature of the veteran socialist leader.

In 2017, Nitish obviously did not have time — and reasons — for these formalities. When he snapped ties with the RJD and the Congress last month, Sharad, no longer the national president, was neither kept in the loop nor assigned to make an announcement.

Why he lost Nitish’s trust

The JD(U) owes its stature in Bihar and elsewhere to Nitish. As a mascot of good governance and a social justice champion, he has carved a national space for himself. But he has always been politically correct in the past to let Sharad have his dues as one of the better-known faces of the social justice group in the national Capital.

Though known as nobody’s man and someone who holds his own views, Sharad — never a mass leader like Nitish or Lalu Prasad — was always amenable if not malleable. But things deteriorated between Nitish and Sharad after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Sharad lost his Madhepura seat. So, Nitish decided to send Sharad to the Rajya Sabha.

But, just before the polls, a group of party dissidents propped up. However, they didn’t field any candidate against Sharad and even declared they had Sharad’s blessings, an assertion that created mistrust over the veteran socialist leader’s game plan.

The divide only widened and Nitish apparently lost his trust in Sharad during Jitan Ram Manjhi’s ouster as CM, as many, including Manjhi, openly admitted that Sharad had asked him not to resign if Nitish asked. Sharad was also suspected to be the person who helped Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav sabotage the larger merger plans of all socialist parties into one party.

Sharad’s future has been doubtful after Nitish replaced him as party president last year.


Sharad’s revolt

Sharad’s sense of unease at his political marginalisation was clear, which is why his revolt also appears to be on predictable lines after Nitish returned to the NDA fold last month — the veteran socialist used this as an opportunity to break free.

Though there are workers and a few rebels within the JD(U) ranks who support Sharad, he doesn’t have the following to effect a split in the 71-MLA party.

Aware of Sharad’s limitations, Nitish challenged them on Saturday, when the JD(U) held a national executive meeting in Patna and the Sharad faction held a parallel convention in the city. “Either leave or lose. They are talking about a split in the JD(U). If you have the support of two-thirds of the MLAs and MPs, split the party. Or else, you will lose your seat,” Nitish said.

In his parallel convention, Sharad, a 10th-term parliamentarian, said, “The people gave us their mandate for five years and I’m really disappointed that the Grand Alliance has collapsed. I don’t blame anyone. Let people decide who chose the right path because we did not leave the JD(U), they left us.”

Though everything was attributed to Sharad in the parallel meeting, it seemed the impressive crowd had more RJD supporters.

The JD(U) has so far treated Sharad with kid gloves. Though he has been removed as the leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha, besides the suspension of 21 leaders considered close to him, he’s still in the party for old times’ sake. But he may run out of luck if he participates in the August 27 RJD rally in Patna.

It will be considered an anti-party activity now that the JD(U) has formally joined the NDA fold, and may lead to his disqualification from the Rajya Sabha.

Sharad’s rebellion suits Lalu, as the RJD boss has someone from the JD(U) to confront Nitish and cause embarrassment to the party. Sharad has also succeeded to emerge on the national platform.

The way forward

Many believe Lalu is the cause and beneficiary of Sharad’s revolt. Now, Sharad looks dependent upon the RJD boss in the caste-ridden political landscape of Bihar.

He also has the uphill task of creating and nursing a cadre he can call his own. Sharad’s future seems to be in the RJD camp. Though there is no official announcement, Sharad’s rebellion against Nitish may give a political breakthrough for his son, as Lalu is believed to have agreed to back the candidature of Sharad’s son from Madhepura in the next Lok Sabha polls.

That can be quite a step down for Sharad, who became the youngest MP in India in 1974. Old-timers recall how Lalu and Nitish were only emerging as leaders in the late 1980s when Sharad had already arrived as a socialist politician thanks to his proximity with Devi Lal. Times have changed since then in Bihar.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

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Amitabh Srivastava Amitabh Srivastava

The writer is a Senior Associate Editor with India Today Magazine.

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