2019 Failure, Bypoll Fears: As Bihar Struggles for Strong Oppn, Tie-ups Within Grand Alliance May be Reality Soon
Manjhi, in fact, had already held negotiations with Jan Adhikar Party leader Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav to float a third front against the mahagathbandhan and the NDA.
Patna: The Grand alliance, also called mahagathbandhan, in Bihar appears to be directionless in view of the lack of unanimity among allies over its chief ministerial candidate for the next assembly elections. There are four strong contenders for the post of the chief minister in the mahagathbandhan in case it comes to power in 2020.
It was apparent at its recent meeting held after nearly three months wherein the leaders of the five allies failed to arrive at a consensus as to who would be their chief ministerial face to take on the BJP-JDU alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The mahagathbandhan in Bihar comprises five political parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). Barring Congress, which won from Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat, the other allies could not win from any seat in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
The RJD has already declared Tejashwi Prasad Yadav as its chief ministerial candidate and it tried to push his candidature at the grand alliance meeting. However, the leaders of the allies were not ready to accept him as their chief ministerial face.
Former chief minister and HAM leader Jitan Ram Manjhi is himself a strong contender for the Chief Minister’s post. “There is no hurry at all. Even the NDA is not yet clear whether it would contest the assembly polls under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar. Let the NDA take the lead. We will announce our leader later,” Manjhi categorically said.
Manjhi, in fact, had already held negotiations with Jan Adhikar Party leader Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav to float a third front against the mahagathbandhan and the NDA. Manjhi and Pappu are also negotiating with the rebel group of the Lok Janshakti Party led by Satyanand Sharma to join the third front.
Manjhi’s chief ministerial ambition was rebuked by RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwary, who accused the HAM president of impatience and discussing the issue of leadership in public. “If Manjhi has any ambition or grievance, he should air this within the coalition instead of making his views public,” Tiwary said.
Congress too is non-committal on contesting assembly polls under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav. Soon after the Lok Sabha poll results, senior Bihar Congress leaders had advocated for going to the next assembly polls alone to revive the party and maintain its national identity.
Congress national secretary in-charge for Bihar, Virendra Rathore, has maintained that the Congress believed in the system of electing leaders through consensus or majority vote. “It would be hypothetical to discuss any name or the party at this juncture,” he said.
RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha also nourishes chief ministerial ambitions and he had expressed his desire in so many words on many occasions. In November last year, Kushwaha had created a flutter in the political circles when he made a startling claim that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had reached a saturation point in power and that Nitish wanted to step down after assembly elections in 2020.
It reflected upon Kushwaha’s secret wish to become the chief minister of Bihar. He has been explicitly stating that it was now the turn of Koeris (the caste which he belongs) to rule in Bihar after 15-year rule of Yadavs led by Lalu Prasad Yadav and subsequent 15-year rule of Kurmis led by Nitish Kumar.
Tejashwi’s graph began falling after his failure to steer the mahagathbandhan to success in the Lok Sabha polls. His political acumen was questioned by the senior RJD leaders as well as the allies. The infighting among his siblings for inheriting the family legacy further dented his standing within the party.
As the grand alliance allies have, for the time being, rejected him as their chief ministerial candidate, Tejashwi now is working on setting his own house in order and establishing his authority in the RJD. The Tejashwi loyalists want him to be the sole leader with full authority and command.
On the contrary, a section of RJD leaders want someone from the senior ranks like Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Abdul Bari Siddiqui to take command of the party before going to the next assembly polls.
Though the mahagathbandhan meeting achieved ‘too little’ in terms of projecting someone as its chief ministerial face, it has certainly set in motion the talks to form a strong political front against the NDA for the next assembly polls.
It is learnt that the RJD may relinquish its claim on the post of chief minister and agree on the post of deputy chief minister for Tejashwi Yadav. The grand alliance can also consider having two posts of deputy chief minister to accommodate another willing ally. However, every such move will depend upon the number of seats each of the allies would win in the 2020 assembly polls.
The future shape of the grand alliance will largely depend on the outcome of the bypoll for the five assembly segments and one Lok Sabha seat to be held in next couple of months. Altogether five assembly seats had fallen vacant after their MLAs were elected to the Lok Sabha. The Samastipur Lok Sabha seat had fallen vacant after death of its MP Ramchandra Paswan.
If the grand alliance experiment works in the bypoll, the allies will try to further consolidate it for the 2020 assembly polls. And, in case it fails, the grand alliance will fade out gradually.
Also, there might be 180 degree structural changes in the poll dynamics as the different political parties may jump from one alliance to other during the seat-sharing talks in the run-up to the assembly polls.
(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
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