Lalu Prasad Yadav’s loyal vote bank holds JD(U) back
Nitish reluctant to leave RJD alliance for a tieup with BJP.
New Delhi: CBI and ED raids notwithstanding, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav continues to enjoy the support of Bihar’s Muslims and Yadavs. This, according to sources, is why Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is finding it difficult to come out of the grand alliance and join hands with the BJP. Some of the party leaders also pointed out that even though Mr Kumar could remain in power with the support of the BJP, the JD(U) would not only “lose” the support of the Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) combination, but also would be “at the mercy of the saffronites”.
In the House of 243, the halfway mark in the Bihar Assembly is 122. The grand alliance is comfortably perched with 178 MLAs which include 80 MLAs of the RJD, 71 of JD(U) and 27 of the Congress. The BJP has 58 MLAs. If Mr Kumar takes up BJP’s support, he would still remain in power with the total strength of 129 but would be hugely dependent on the saffron party. Moreover, Mr Kumar, who proved to be more popular than the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi during the Bihar Assembly polls would be “completely overshadowed by him”.
The M-Y combination in Bihar is around 31 per cent, which includes nearly 17 per cent Muslims and 14 per cent Yadavs. Mr Kumar’s own Kurmi caste constitutes only six per cent of Bihar’s population.
It was being apprehended in the JD(U) camp that if Mr Kumar dumped the RJD and Congress, the entire Muslim vote bank could turn against him. Also, if the JD(U) joined the BJP, the BJP could eat into its core vote bank of Kurmis and OBCs (non-Yadavs).
This is particularly worrying after the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls have clearly indicated that the OBCs and the Dalits have shifted to BJP.
The raids against the RJD chief and his family members “could work in our favour”, a senior JD(U) leader argued. He pointed out that following the raids RJD’s “dadagiri” (muscle-flexing) while running the government “would considerably come down”. For JD(U), a “weak Lalu Prasad Yadav is better than a powerful BJP”, he said.
The JD(U) was also aware that if a grand alliance of the secular outfits is formed during the 2019 general elections, the going could get somewhat tough for the BJP, even though the Prime Minister would continue tower over other top political leaders in the country. “Who thought Vajpayee would lose in 2004?” the JD(U) leader asked, adding that the JD(U) would at this juncture just remain in the Opposition and continue to blow hot and cold but not really take any concrete step to join hands with the BJP.
The BJP, on the other hand, indicated that though the party would want Mr Kumar to return to the NDA fold, they were in “no hurry”. The BJP leaders seemed to be somewhat confident that by the end of 2018, the JD(U) would have “no option” but to join the NDA. The saffronites felt that by the end of 2018, most of the Opposition parties including RJD, Trinamul Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party would “stand completely discredited”.
It was further claimed that Centre would continue to push forward its pro-poor agenda and intensify its war against corruption. The JD(U) and other outfits like BJD and even TRS might have to “look towards the NDA” rather than joining hands with tainted outfits, the BJP strategist observed.