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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 18.06.13

A political alliance must end when its survival becomes untenable. The ruling coalition in Bihar had been doomed from the time Narendra Modi became the leading light of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Nitish Kumar had no choice but to oppose Mr Modi’s elevation, just as the BJP had little option other than anointing the party’s most popular leader. Mr Kumar’s decision to end the alliance of the Janata Dal (United) with the BJP is thus a matter more of political compulsions than of any lofty principle. It is difficult to accept Mr Kumar’s claim that he has taken the decision in order to uphold secularism. He had entered into the alliance with the BJP and stuck to it despite the fact that many other parties accused the latter of being ‘communal’. The BJP-JD(U) alliance survived in Bihar because Mr Kumar dominated it. But the BJP could not afford to accept any ally dictating terms to it as to how the former should choose its leader or run its affairs. But then, the BJP has little justification for calling Mr Kumar’s decision an act of ‘betrayal’. The fact of the matter is that the allies had to part ways in the wake of Mr Modi’s ascendancy in the BJP.

What happens in Bihar next is not simply a matter of the state’s politics. Once again, Mr Kumar has to choose between several options. He may decide to go it alone in Bihar or he may try to forge a new alliance. And, if his new alliance includes the Congress, the biggest secular party, it could dramatically change the face of alliance politics not only in Bihar but also at the national level. Given Lalu Prasad’s anxiety to return to an alliance with the Congress, the future of alliance politics in Bihar is still quite uncertain. But much of it will depend on how strongly Mr Kumar can defend his own fort. If the separation from the BJP is expected to earn him the support of Bihar’s Muslim voters, it may also cost him part of the upper caste vote. Naveen Patnaik may have succeeded in retaining power and his influence in Odisha after breaking his alliance with the BJP. But the BJP’s appeal to the people in Odisha was never half as strong as it is among large sections of voters in Bihar. The party too has an opportunity in Bihar that it did not quite explore during its long years of alliance with the JD(U). If Mr Modi is the reason behind the break-up of the alliance, he may like to make Bihar a decisive front in his battle for India.