The task is cut out for the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad. Either he has to carve out his political moves alone or be a part of a greater secular alliance — the revival of the erstwhile Janata Dal of sorts.
The mood of Lalu swung from one end to the other in the past two days. On Saturday, he sounded “soft” on the idea of a secular alliance with Nitish Kumar. A day on, he made a U-turn declaring that he had never talked with the JD(U) national president, Sharad Yadav.
“The story is concocted and there is no truth that I talked to Sharad Yadav and the question of an alliance with the JD(U) does not arise,” he said.
While both Lalu and Nitish have been pushed to the corner after the humiliating defeat in the hands of the BJP and its allies in the Lok Sabha polls, some RJD leaders pointed out that the party should tread cautiously on the alliance.
“Nitish has grown as a politician on an anti-Lalu stance along with the BJP. It is not necessary that if he joins hands with us he can transfer his votes to us and vice versa. Even our voters, particularly Yadavs, consider Nitish as enemy number one,” said a senior RJD leader, recalling that when the Congress allied with the RJD its upper caste votes went to the BJP.
A few other RJD leaders fear that if Nitish continued as the chief minister after an RJD-JD(U) pact, a wrong message would go to the people at the grassroots. “It will give a perception that the JD(U) is the big brother and the RJD is the marginal player of the alliance,” said another RJD leader, recalling how Nitish during the Samata Party days started off as the junior partner of the BJP and later emerged as the “big brother”.
The RJD is also uncomfortable over a Yadav leader replacing Nitish Kumar as the chief minister. “A Yadav chief minister would mean encroachment into our core votes. Once late Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav, called Sher-e-Bihar (the lion of Bihar), was considered the leader of the Yadav caste in the state. After Lalu Prasad assumed the chief minister’s post, the Yadavs changed their loyalty to Lalu,” another RJD leader said.
Speculation is rife that Lalu has been demanding the post of deputy chief minister for Abdul Bari Siddiqui and a couple of more ministries. But the RJD officially denied the rumours.
“Lalu and Nitish have been political rivals for around two decades and have never missed a chance to get at one other in the public. Nitish made sarcastic remarks about Lalu by mentioning him as barey bhai (elder borther) and Lalu returned the favour. Even in the Lok Sabha campaigning Laluji declared that ‘Nitish was no factor’ in Bihar. Nitishji countered mentioning about the alleged jungle raj (lawlessness) during the Lalu-Rabri regime. There is so much bitterness between them that it will take time to forge an alliance — essential for their survival,” added the RJD leader.