In politics, it is said, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar became an exemplar of this adage when he renewed his ties with the BJP, breaking his party JD(U)’s grand alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and the Congress.
Though by doing so he effected one of the most stunning U-turns in recent politics, it was seen to be coming. The collateral damage of this move that dented the opposition unity, has been Nitish’s old friendship and inner-party alliance with Sharad Yadav, which has been under strain for a while.
Yadav had been reluctant to leave the BJP/NDA alliance in 2014 of which he was the convenor when Nitish forced a breakup. Yadav, who was then the JD(U) chief, sided with Nitish’s decision after much convincing.
In the process, the JD(U) was reduced to two seats in the Lok Sabha, while BJP captured 30-odd parliamentary seats in Bihar. However, once in the opposition, it was Yadav who persuaded Lalu to side with JD(U), trouncing BJP in the Bihar Assembly. He also roped in Mulayam Singh Yadav to try and reunite the splintered Janata Parivar.
Incidentally, it was the erstwhile Janata Party’s pivotal oppositional politics that had defeated Indira Gandhi in 1977 and later her son Rajiv in 1989. Nitish, heading one of the Janata splinter groups, with maverick George Fernandes, Samata Party, had merged with Sharad Yadav’s JD(U). Since then, much water has flown down the Ganges.
Nitish is not only the Bihar CM, he’s also the JD(U) boss. He had edged Sharad Yadav out of the party chief’s post, which enabled him to oust Yadav from the parliamentary party chief post for opposing his realignment with BJP. Yadav with a few years left in the Rajya Sabha, has refused to hop over from the opposition benches to the treasury side.
Two fellow JD(U) MPs and a dozen-odd party units outside Bihar have sided with Sharad Yadav. None of the 71-odd MLAs have shown any inclination to desert the new power equation that Nitish has cobbled up with BJP. Nonetheless, Janata Dal United seems set to be divided.