2017 will be an indelible year for the Bihar polity. The second half in particular, which started with CBI raids at the residence of RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, followed by an FIR against the then Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Tejashwi Yadav which eventually culminated into Nitish Kumar calling off the RJD – JD(U) – INC alliance and forging ties with the BJP; and last but far from being least, Lalu Prasad Yadav being convicted in infamous fodder scam. As a responsible democracy, which essays faith of the highest order in the judicial system, the judgement has been welcomed by all stakeholders alike. Irrespective of the further legal recourse, the convict decides to designate, it is bound to have an obligatory impact on the future of RJD. However, whether the pronouncement will dent the RJD-INC alliance in Bihar or on the espoused Mahagathbandhan in 2019 is ambivalent.
While certain sections of the media and civil society recommend that the Congress Party should dissolve all ties with the RJD across all levels of engagement, I personally do not feel the grand old party should resort to any such knee-jerk reaction, on account of the following three reasons: Party – Not Persons Define the Alliance, Politics Matters, and Predictable leadership in RJD.
Party – Not Persons Define the Alliance
One, the existing alliance in Bihar is signed between INC and RJD, and not between two individuals. In India, both, pre-poll political alliances and post-poll coalitions factor the systematic risk, which may lead to a change of guard or restructuring. Since these alliances are formed between partners who share a common ideology, (BJP – Shiv Sena), to meet a common electoral objective (PDP – BJP), the relationship continues despite individuals.
Although Shiv Sena went through a visible shift, in structure and communication post demise of Bal Thackrey, the party continues to be an integral piece of the NDA camp.
In the March 2017 Uttar Pradesh state elections, INC was in alliance with SP. Despite the perennial friction between Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav, the alliance was marked by a gregariousness campaign, with their respective sons at the helm of it.
The PDP BJP coalition was formed in 2014. The arrangement continued, even after Mehbooba Mufti assumed charge of the Chief Minister’s office, post the unfortunate demise of her father Mirza Mehboob Beg.
During the conception of INC RJD alliance in 2015, the INC was headed by Sonia Gandhi and RJD by Lalu Prasad Yadav. While INC elected its new Chairperson, Rahul Gandhi, in December 2017, it is unclear whether the RJD will elect a new Chief. As the change in leadership looms, it is discernible is that the alliance is not dependent on any particular leader unless the party suffers from a single point of failure.
Two, it would be politically naïve for INC to call off the alliance based on a judicial pronouncement for two reasons. First, INC has managed to secure just 27 seats in 2015, its second-best performance in two decades. The party had managed to secure just 4 seats in 2010. Clearly, Bihar is not INC’s citadel from any stretch of calculation, and it is unlikely that the party will be able to turn around its fortunes on the socialist soil. Thus, the only (prudent) way to be relevant in the state, is to solder an alliance with one of the two regional contingents, i.e. JD (U) or RJD. With JD (U) saddled up with BJP, RJD is the obvious partner for INC. Two, in the national scheme of things, INC is at a precarious juncture. Going by the recently concluded Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections, the revival seems to be imminent and one is reasonably sure, that in context of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi would want to maximise the chances in his favour. In the best case, he would espouse for an absolute majority or a coalition, worst case, INC would want to play a tough opposition, contrary to present, which is sparse alone, and fractured together. Having RJD at its end would be win-win, in either eventuality.
Lalu Prasad Yadav has been pragmatic by nurturing an evident line of succession in the form of his two sons, Tej Pratap and Tejaswi. This adds the much-needed predictability to RJD, compared to its other regional parties like AIADMK, which too faced an unforeseen vacuum of leadership. While Lalu Prasad Yadav is the face of RJD and may continue to be so till eternity, like his counterpart, Jayalalithaa, it is clear that RJD has a palpable manifestation over and beyond its supremo. Tejaswi Yadav has been taking on Nitish Kumar, playing a vocal and intrepid leader of Opposition. Also, the young politician, who had recently sent a political signal through his lunch date with Rahul Gandhi, has often expressed reverence and fondness for his ally partner. The two appear to be in, for a mutually beneficial haul in near term, making a strong case, for INC RJD alliance despite other variables.
The Modi Shah juggernaut has been instrumental in heightening the significance of electoral success. They have also relieved the political players of moral baggage, by themselves compromising with tainted figures like Sukh Ram and ideological challengers like PDP for the sake of treasury benches. Thus, the question of tinkering with the INC RJD alliance at the behest of taking a moral high ground, in the ‘Modi’fied era is passé and unnecessarily extravagant. Lastly, the INC doesn’t owe an explanation on its stance to anyone, except the electorate.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.