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Following Poll Defeat, is the RJD’s Changed Stance on JD(U) a Bid to Stay Relevant in Bihar Politics?

The RJD appears to have realised that its grip over voters has loosened and it would have to rethink its strategy to counter the saffron camp in the upcoming election.

Pankaj Kumar | News18

Updated:June 4, 2019, 11:47 PM IST
Following Poll Defeat, is the RJD’s Changed Stance on JD(U) a Bid to Stay Relevant in Bihar Politics?
File photo of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with now-jailed RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Convenience is another name for politics and by that virtue, blood-thirsty rivals become friends and vice-versa.

The recently concluded Lok Sabha election has thrown up many possible realignments for political parties.

The humiliating defeat of the Bihar grand alliance, led by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), has considerably changed the scenario in the state.

Soon after the formation of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at Centre in which the Janata Dal-United (JDU) was offered a single berth that it refused, the RJD has started giving fodder to a conversation of the two regional parties reuniting in Bihar.

Senior leaders of the erstwhile alliance are said to be exploring options of the two parties coming together ahead of the Assembly election in 2020.

On Monday, RJD vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and the party’s Rajya Sabha leader Manoj Jha made separate statements to the media, saying they were ready to join hands with the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) to defeat the BJP in the state election.

Only recently, jailed RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav’s wife Rabri Devi and their son Tejaswi Yadav, who led the 'mahagathbandhan' in Bihar, said that doors of the grand alliance were closed forever for the Bihar chief minister.

Both of them had claimed that after joining hands with the BJP in 2017, Kumar, through his trusted lieutenant Prashant Kishore, had tried to return to the alliance, but the mother-son duo had rejected the advances.

However, JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh told News18 that the alliance with the BJP was strong and foolproof and the RJD leaders' statements were a figment of their imagination.

What prompted the RJD to change its tactics for Nitish Kumar?

The RJD, after the latest poll drubbing, seems to have realised that its grip over voters has loosened and it would have to rethink its strategy to counter the saffron camp in the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, after refusing to join the Modi government on account of non-allocation of proportionate ministerial berths, Kumar returned the favour by not inducting any BJP leader in the hurriedly expanded cabinet of the Bihar government.

Soon after, BJP leader and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi wrote on Twitter that the BJP was offered a ministry by Kumar, but the saffron party chose to defer it for some time.

RJD insiders fear Kumar, by not bowing down to the BJP, has won the hearts of many anti-Modi supporters.

According to sources, the RJD's top leadership is worried about the latest political developments as the JD(U) seems to be inching closer to the Congress. In such a scenario, the RJD fears being left out of the main platform to take on the BJP in Bihar.

The way Bihar Congress in-charge Shakti Singh Gohil and other party leaders blamed the RJD for the recent debacle has caused further jitters in the party's top echelons.

Since May 23 when the poll results were declared, the Congress has not attended any meeting of the grand alliance.

In the post-election assessment, the RJD has deduced that the Muslim-Yadav combination did not work in favour of the 'mahagathbandhan', resulting in losses in strongholds like Madhepura, Banka, Ujiyarpur, Katihar and Purnea.

The party leadership is also apprehensive about its clout among minorities, especially if the JD(U) joins hands with the Congress. This is another reason why it has decide to reconsider its strategy.

The statement given by Jitan Ram Manjhi of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) on the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav is an indication of future churning and has cast a doubt over his continued presence in the grand alliance with Yadav-junior as its leader.

Manjhi and Kumar attended each other’s iftar parties and the former has already announced that he would not mind joining hands with the JD(U) to defeat the BJP in the 2020 election.

Clearly this sends a signal that the RJD might be left behind in a new emerging political scenario.

The RJD also seems to have realised its mistake of playing divisive caste politics and opposing the Centre’s move to grant 10% reservation to upper castes. As per sources, the party has decided to change its strategy to win back upper caste voters, especially Rajputs.

Also, the RJD leadership doesn’t want the upcoming state election to turn into a triangular contest and is willing to welcome the JD(U) into its fold.

On Sunday, former BJP ally and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief Upendra Kushwaha cautioned the saffron party that Kumar would “betray” it and it should be ready for "dhokha number 2" from the JD(U) president.

Kumar had snapped ties with the BJP in June 2013 after Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister, was made the saffron party's campaign committee chairman for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He had joined hands with the RJD and Congress to form a grand alliance in Bihar which won the last state elections, before reuniting with the BJP again.

However, the scenario is much different now as the RJD then was far stronger than what it is today.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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