Bihar & beyond

The bloodless coup has cost the Opposition its 'cleanest' leader, possibly 2019 mascot

Break up of  Mahagatbandhan or the Grand Alliance of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress in Bihar will have far reaching implications for disarrayed opposition parties and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at national level. In many ways the construct of the event has bloodless coup written all over it, for the alacrity with which it unfolded meant that it was in the works for sometime.

For the opposition alliance, yet another large and politically important state like Bihar has slipped out of its rule. Congress-led opposition alliance may also have to get ready with its campaign for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019 without their  ‘cleanest’ leader who could have emerged as its mascot. It is also a huge setback for the opposition that was working overtime to forge a grand alliance at the national level taking a leaf out of Bihar. Big question mark for the rank and file in the opposition camp would be what’s the way forward to take on the Narendra Modi juggernaut now? BJP is now in power in 17 out of the 29 indian states, which tells you how the politics of india has undergone a dramatic colour coordinated change in the last 36 months.

In Bihar, revival of time tested JD(U)– BJP alliance government may stoke a huge political battle with RJD led by Lalu Yadav who feels “cheated” and “betrayed” by Nitish Kumar. Lalu Yadav and his family would definitely attempt to derive maximum political capital out of the midnight drama that led to break up of the grand alliance. Otherwise, Bihar’s first family would face political isolation and lose its relevance especially with every member being tried for corruption by law enforcement agencies. Political and caste equations would also undergo a sea change following new NDA government under Nitish Kumar taking charge. Non-Yadav and non-Muslim vote consolidation may begin to happen. In the process, OBC vote bank configuration is likely to change given that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav would head opposing camps.

For NDA led by prime minister Narendra Modi, it’s a clear advantage given that an alliance government in Bihar was in place. Developments in the state may have actually propelled the theme song for Modi’s 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign: development versus corruption. Perhaps, Modi will be the first prime minister to fight elections against corruption by opposition parties. From Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family amassing wealth to Narada–Sarada scams of Mamta Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress may come under serious attack by Modi and BJP. Impropriety committed by various opposition leaders may give enough ammunition for the BJP-led NDA that has spread far and wide.

Big question would however, be whether governor Kesri Nath Tripathi acted in haste to install JD(U)-BJP government overnight without giving a chance to RJD as the single largest party that was in alliance with Congress to provide an alternative. After all, the people’s mandate was for RJD-JD(U)-Congress pre-poll alliance in last year’s assembly elections and not JD(U)-BJP that has been handed over power on Thursday. Many argued that given a chance, RJD- Congress would have resorted to horse-trading to secure a majority. But then Tamil Nadu governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao took over 10 days to install a government after the demise of then chief minister Jayalalithaa, fractious three-way split in AIADMK and power jockeying by DMK.

A chance for RJD–Congress to prove majority on the floor of assembly by Saturday should perhaps have been considered. In the given scenario, there’s a likelihood that the governor’s decision would be challenged in the Supreme Court. SR Bommai case that was quoted by BJP-led NDA several times in the past provides the template for a party or an alliance to prove majority on the floor of state assembly and not otherwise. Other than political considerations, what led new president Ramnath Kovind to allow transfer of power to a new set of parties must be put in public domain.