Lalu's surprising comeback in Bihar politics

Thanks to Nitish’s misreading of the Yadav-Muslim combination, Rashtriya Janata Dal is making an unexpected comeback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections

Kanhaiya Bhelari | May 6, 2014



Suddenly Lalu Prasad has started getting peppery towards journalists; his arch-rival Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, is heard quoting the statement of the great socialist thinker late Ram Manohar Lohia: “Politics is a short-term religion whereas religion is a long-term politics”. The sudden change of tone towards the end of 2014 Lok Sabha battle hints that there are good days for Lalu Prasad and bad days for Nitish Kumar. 

Those aware of the attitude of the two friends-turned-foes know that when Lalu Prasad is stronger, he gets angry even on trivial issues, shouts for no apparent reason. The other day day he shouted at a senior journalist alleging, “You are a khaas aadmi of Nitish and, seeing the writing on the wall, have come to renew dosti with me”.

That Nitish Kumar is losing ground in the general elections is amply read through his body language and saintly utterances to the media. Replying to a query by an editor, the chief minister, radiating an artificial smile on his lips, said, “Politics is a tapasya (penance)”.

The day Nitish severed ties with the BJP in June 2013, he certainly wouldn’t have calculated that he would be facing apathy by the community he ‘sacrificed’ his coalition for.

One of his close friends sarcastically said, “Even major portion of the EBC [extremely backward classes] comprising over 100 castes with about 32 percent votes, whom Nitish jee had ensured several incentives over the years, have turned away from the arrow symbol”. And, given the reactions of the masses in Bihar, it seems he is not lying: Krishna Sharma of Bairipur in Buxar constituency, a carpenter by caste, feels that Narendra Modi, being a member of the EBC house, is dearer to him than Nitish Kumar – at least for the Lok Sabha elections. Similarly Om Thakur of Jamui, a barber by caste, has to say that he would consider voting for Nitish Kumar only during the assembly elections. “Abhi Desh khatare mein hai (presently the nation is facing danger),” is his argument for his change of loyalty.

As per 2013 caste census, whose copies are available to both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, the Yadavs have a population of 15 percent in the state, whereas the Muslims constitute 16.5 percent. Till the first phase of polling that took place on April 10, the Muslim votes apparently got divided between the two leaders. But from second phase onwards the minority community is said to have preferred Lalu Prasad-led UPA in Bihar.

Now with 31.5 percent votes by his side, Lalu Prasad’s body language has undergone a dramatic change. “I have succeeded in pricking the balloon of the BJP that was aired by the media,” he keeps telling the reporters.

Solidifying the Muslim-Yadav combination has injected vigour into the weary body of Lalu Prasad. There is also a possibility of him bouncing back if the assembly elections, which are due in October-November 2015, witness a three-way division of votes among BJP, RJD and JD (U).

In the eyes of Muslims, Lalu Prasad does not care for the maryada, prestige, when it comes to rescue his friends in distress; on the other hand, they consider Nitish Kumar scared of being caught by sins while defying established ethics and social norms.

There is a possibility of collapse of Nitish government in the wake of Narendra Modi occupying the throne in Delhi. If rumours in Patna are to be believed, some 35 JD (U) legislators are in touch with the BJP because they do not see their political future with the JD (U). And, by any chance, if the situation demands early assembly elections, there is strong possibility of Lalu having the last laugh.

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