Ever since BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Narendra Modi took over as PM, the party has suffered only two major setbacks. It lost the Assembly elections in Delhi to Aam Aadmi Party and in Bihar to RJD-JDU-Congress’ grand alliance. Coincidentally, both reverses took place in 2015.
But about a couple of years later, the situation has taken a U-turn. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad in Bihar and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who had trounced the BJP and Modi in 2015, find themselves in the dock. The governments in Bihar and Delhi appear shaken and may come crashing down under their own weights.
Incidentally, the BJP is not involved in the tumultuous phase that Lalu and Kejriwal find themselves in. While the fodder scam has come back to haunt the RJD strongman, an internal feud is rocking the AAP convener’s boat.
Since 2009, former Bihar chief minister Lalu's stars had stopped favouring him. Despite being part of the Congress-led UPA, he was not included in the Manmohan Singh government. His fate turned worse when, after being jailed for several times, he was finally convicted in the fodder scam in 2013. Due to amendments in the Representation of the People Act, he was also debarred from contesting elections for 11 years.
However, Lalu's fortune did a volte face in 2015. He teamed up with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and the Congress to form the Mahagathbandhan to take on the BJP-led NDA for the November-December Assembly elections.
With the help of a few blunders made by the BJP, some right steps taken by the alliance and a bit of luck, the Lalu-Nitish-Congress combine came victorious. Moreover, RJD bagged 80 of the 101 constituencies on which it had fielded its candidate. It won the maximum number of the total 243 seats.
Basking in the victory of his party, Lalu got two of his sons included in Nitish's cabinet with the younger, Tejashwi Yadav, even becoming deputy chief minister.
But Lalu got the most severe jolt since October 2013 when the Supreme Court on May 8 restored conspiracy charges against him in the Rs 1,000-crore fodder scam. The top court, while upholding the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) plea challenging dropping of charges against the RJD chief, ordered separate trials in all cases linked to the scam.
This has made not just Lalu's position vulnerable but also that of Nitish and the alliance government in Bihar. The court has also asked the trial to be completed in nine months. In the course of the trial, or thereafter, Lalu may also be jailed and convicted in the conspiracy charge case.
Lalu got two of his sons included in Nitish's cabinet. Photo: India Today
Nitish is already under pressure after the Supreme Court ruling. He is being accused of running a government in alliance with the RJD which has a tainted chief. If Lalu is convicted again, the position of Nitish and the state government will be rendered untenable.
The opposition BJP would leave no stone unturned to exert pressure on Nitish to severe links with RJD. Or, with the passage of time, there is the possibility of the strained relations between RJD and JDU turning worse and even getting snapped.
This would lead to two situations - either Nitish would manage to survive as CM with the support of BJP. Or, Bihar may witness another spell of President’s Rule.
Amid these probabilities, there is one definitive situation - Lalu has lost some more of the little political leverage he had. An adverse court ruling threatens to make him politically irrelevant.
For more than six months after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Modi wave was sweeping in different parts of the country. The BJP-led NDA had won Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections.
Modi had even trounced Kejriwal in the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. While the BJP won 282 of 543 seats, the AAP bagged just four, that too in Punjab.
However, the Modi juggernaut came to a screeching halt in Delhi. PM Modi tasted the first defeat at the hands of a comparatively political novice, Arvind Kejriwal.
Kejriwal dealt a humiliating blow to Modi, his aura and his image of invincibility. AAP won a mind-blowing 67 of 70 seats. The BJP was confined to just three seats - its worst performance in the National Capital Territory Assembly election till then.
As politics unfolded subsequently, Kejriwal sought to damage Modi’s image the hardest. He picked personal fights with Modi, calling him names such as “coward and psychopath”. However, in the process Kejriwal only demeaned himself.
In a bid to challenge Modi and BJP again electorally, Kejriwal’s AAP contested the Punjab and Goa Assembly elections. Kejriwal had gone back on his promise to not leave Delhi and not dream of expanding beyond the national capital.
Perhaps, the voters punished him for breaking his promise and for being over-ambitious. The AAP received major setbacks in both the states. While losing in Punjab to Congress, it failed to even open its account in Goa.
Kejriwal lost a major part of his sheen after receiving drubbings in the two states. However, he lost a large part of credibility by not accepting the people’s mandate. Instead, he blamed EVMs for his defeats. He did not spare even a constitutional body like the Election Commission (EC). He alleged that the EC was acting at the behest of the Modi government.
To make matters worse, AAP lost the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections in April to BJP. AAP was a debutant in the MCD polls. With this, AAP and Kejriwal’s trounce was complete. Modi and BJP had taken a sweet revenge on Kejriwal and AAP, respectively.
As if that was not enough, Kejriwal got embroiled in the worst controversy ever. His cabinet minister Kapil Mishra levelled the allegation of corruption against him. He lobbed the hardest volley, alleging that he had seen Kejriwal accepting Rs 2 crore in cash from another cabinet colleague, Satyendar Jain.
Mishra has even approached the CBI and complained against Kejriwal today.
AAP and Kejriwal may never have found themselves this weak ever before.
Their position is as unenviable as that of Lalu, Nitish and the grand alliance government in Bihar.
Just two years ago, they had sought to cut Modi to size. However, they find themselves in a tight spot now. And BJP seems to be having the last laugh.