In his response to the no-confidence motion against the BJP government last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Opposition’s INDIA bloc was bowling one no-ball after the other. Five months later, political developments in Bihar have provided BJP nothing less than a full toss.
JDU leader Nitish Kumar’s move to end his alliance with the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal to revive his tie-up with the BJP comes as a massive setback to the INDIA bloc months before it takes on the formidable BJP in Lok Sabha polls. What’s more, Mr Kumar, in his first remarks after submitting his resignation, referred to how “nobody was working” in the INDIA bloc.
Here’s how Nitish Kumar’s latest flip-flop hits INDIA bloc
Bengal, Punjab And Now Bihar
The Bihar reversal comes amid the friction within the INDIA bloc to reach a seat-sharing arrangement with regional forces Trinamool Congress and Aam Aadmi Party. Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has hit out at the Congress amid seat-sharing talks and virtually pulled the plug on an INDIA alliance in the state. She has said Trinamool will contest alone and a decision on any alliance would be taken only after the election. The Congress has since been busy in damage control and has stressed that they are working to find a way out. Seat-sharing talks have also hit a roadblock in Punjab, where Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has said the AAP is gearing up for a solo fight.
Against this backdrop, the Bihar developments mean advantage for BJP is what was till yesterday an Opposition-ruled state. The fact that Bihar has as many as 40 Lok Sabha seats makes it very significant politically, and the bigger picture appears to be the factor that made the BJP received Mr Kumar, infamous for his flip-flops, back into the NDA fold.
Big Dent On Congress Image
Shortly after Mr Kumar’s resignation, his close aide and senior JDU leader KC Tyagi launched a scathing attack on the Congress, accusing the grand old party of trying to hijack the INDIA bloc. This, he said, had forced the JDU to quit the alliance even after Mr Kumar was at the forefront to bring Opposition forces together.
Mr Tyagi said the kind of preparations required to take on the BJP’s formidable election machinery were nowhere to be seen even months before the big election. He also alleged that while the Congress was not open to letting allies contest in its strongholds, it kept pushing for more seats in states dominated by other Opposition parties. “Congress is fighting for its survival. And it now wants to finish off regional forces,” Mr Tyagi said. He also targeted the Congress over the delay in finalising seat-sharing arrangements.
The JDU leader’s remarks plays out against regional parties’ repeated assertions that they should be given a bigger role in their bastions.
JDU’s exit from INDIA will further push Congress on the back foot as regional parties are likely to use the Bihar developments to drive a hard bargain in seat-sharing. “The alliance has ended because of Congress’s arrogance,” Mr Tyagi said, also predicting that other regional parties will also walk out of the alliance with Congress.
Responding to Mr Kumar’s flip-flop, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge has said there are many people like ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’ in politics and that the party knew this would happen.
BJP’s Stability Narrative
Ever since the INDIA alliance was formed, the BJP has been pushing the narrative that a coalition of so many partners — who are also rivals in many states — is bound to be unstable. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the NDA had brought stability to the country. With Mr Kumar, among the key faces of INDIA bloc, exiting the alliance, the BJP’s claims regarding the inherent instability of the Opposition bloc have got credence.
As the country gears up for the Lok Sabha polls next year, the BJP now appears a formidable force armed with the charisma of Prime Minister Modi and a meticulous election machinery. The INDIA bloc, on the other hand, is still struggling to put its house in order. And the recent exit of JDU will not help its public perception.