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Modi & Misa effect on Bihar duo

- Lalu and Nitish break ice; faced with party clamour to stay on, caretaker CM seeks a day
belated wisdom EARLY BIRD

Patna, May 18: Narendra Modi — and perhaps the next generation — have ensured a political phone conversation after 20 years between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.

JD(U)-RJD sources said Lalu Prasad called up Nitish yesterday, a day after the election results reduced Bihar’s two giants to single-digit entities and forced the chief minister to resign.

The call is part of the back-channel efforts that are on to build a bridge between the JD(U) and the RJD, both offshoots of the erstwhile Janata parivar.

No breakthrough has been achieved yet but sources said both realised their options were becoming limited — indeed their relevance was being questioned — in a state where the BJP had made deep inroads.

The BJP, riding the Modi wave, on its own won 22 of Bihar’s 40 seats. Its allies, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, bagged six and three respectively.

Nitish, (below) Lalu

The JD(U) managed two seats, while the RJD got four.

Nitish and Lalu Prasad have been on speaking terms since their break in 1994. But they have not been known to discuss political issues.

“The two leaders, while analysing the results, have reached a common conclusion — it is not an actual wave but the division of the votes on communal lines that has made it look like a wave in favour of the BJP,” a source close to the two leaders said.

“It was felt that the JD(U), which has around 16 per cent of the votes, and the RJD-Congress, which secured a shade above 29 per cent, should come together to thwart the BJP, which alone got 29.4 per cent of the votes,” added the source.

The BJP alliance has together obtained 38.8 per cent of the votes. Had the JD(U)-CPI contested along with the RJD-Congress, they would have got 45.5 per cent of the votes.

The JD(U) had reportedly tasked state minister Shyam Rajak and the RJD had nominated Manoj Jha, its national spokesman, to explore and work out the framework for a possible alliance on the ground.

In public, Lalu Prasad remained non-committal, saying he would await developments within the JD(U).

The sources said that as the results trickled in on Friday, it was Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti who impressed upon her father the need for an alliance of “secular parties”. “The majority of the Bihari vote is getting scattered,” Misa is learnt to have told Lalu Prasad.

Several RJD leaders have been making the suggestion for a possible rapprochement with the JD(U) for quite some time, but the demand has now received an impetus with even the family echoing the party leaders.

The other person in Bihar’s socialist triumvirate, Ram Vilas Paswan, had to bow to his son Chirag’s insistence on an alliance with the BJP prior to the polls. The LJP has reaped rich dividends, winning six of the seven seats it contested, a stunning bounceback considering it drew a blank in 2009 with questions being raised about Paswan’s political survival.

Strategists in both the JD(U) and the RJD have also concluded that despite Lalu Prasad succeeding in consolidating the Muslims against Modi, the minority vote did get split somewhat between the two groupings.

“If the Lok Sabha results are broken down, the BJP has outperformed both the JD(U) and the RJD in over 80 per cent of the Assembly segments,” a senior RJD leader said.

Backlash on Sharad

JD(U) MLAs today whipped up a frenzy and categorically rejected Nitish’s offer to them to have a new leader and spare him to work for the party ahead of the 2015 Assembly elections.

The legislature party decided to take the final call on choosing a new leader tomorrow after Nitish sought a day’s time to consider their demand.

JD(U) party cadres were particularly incensed by the statement of party president Sharad Yadav, who had announced that a new leader would be chosen to replace Nitish.

Sharad had to face the wrath of the cadres. While they rained blows on his car, the MLAs spoke in unison at the meeting to gag him. “You, as the party president, have no business in deciding whom we will elect as our leader. Don’t speak,” one of the MLAs was learnt to have tersely told Sharad, who lost his Madhepura seat to the RJD’s Pappu Yadav.