Though the Janata Dal (United) on Tuesday boasted that with the joining of Virendra Kumar earlier in the day it has so far wooed seven Rashtriya Janata Dal MLAs and claimed that soon a couple of more leaders may switch sides yet a close examination of the whole exercise exposed the real picture.
A day later on Wednesday Hindustani Awam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Manjhi announced that his party is joining the National Democratic Alliance. If reports are to be believed it would be JD-U and not BJP which would be leaving some seats for HAM. The rise in number of turncoats is coming in the way of finalisation of seat-sharing talks with the alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Besides, the BJP rank and file do not like those who had crossed over to Janata Dal (United) and making claim over the seats which they are now representing. This is simply because all these years the BJP has groomed its own candidates in these seats.
At the very outset it must be understood that these legislators are not getting attracted towards the Janata Dal (United) out of love for chief minister Nitish Kumar, who also happens to be the national president of the party. At the same time it is not true that they have suddenly developed all sorts of hatred for RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and his son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.
The problem with some of them is that they may not win election on RJD ticket this time as technically they were Janata Dal United leaders. For example, Virendra Kumar was honest to concede on Tuesday. “I have always been loyal to Nitish Kumar. But since last time the Janata Dal United contested as a Grand Alliance partner and my constituency (Teghra) was, under seat-sharing arrangement allotted to RJD, I was told to contest on the latter’s ticket. Therefore, I have returned to my home, that is Janata Dal United,” he told reporters after joining the party in the presence of party leader in Lok Sabha Lallan Singh.
There is a possibility of another RJD MLA from Hilsa in Nalanda district, Shakti Yadav, joining Nitish Kumar’s outfit. Once again the problem with him is that the social equation of his Assembly constituency is such that he may not win if he contests on RJD ticket. Needless to suggest, Nalanda is the stronghold of Kurmis, the caste to which the Bihar chief minister belongs to.
The same reason is being cited for the switching over of Paliganj MLA Janardhan Yadav, the grandson of late Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav. While Chandrika Rai’s anger is understandable as his daughter, Ashwariya’s marriage with Tej Pratap is on the rocks, Keoti legislator Faraz Fatmi was bound to quit ever since his father and former union minister M A A Fatmi left RJD last year after being denied ticket in the Lok Sabha.
However, the biggest problem will come at the time of distribution of seats between the BJP and Janata Dal United. In 2015 Assembly election the saffron party contested on 157 seats and could win only 53. That is in 104 seats its candidates were defeated by the Grand Alliance legislators. The Janata Dal (United) was then its constituent. Now the runners-up, that is the BJP leaders, have worked for five years with the hope of contesting from here. Now they are finding themselves in trouble. As if that was not enough the Janata Dal (United) is busy importing turncoats. This would further complicate the matter.
At the same time the LJP has threatened to put up candidates in 119 seats, all against the Janata Dal (United) candidates and not against the BJP. If steps are not taken to rope in the LJP, it would be a big blow to Janata Dal (United) and may ease the victory of Grand Alliance candidates in many of these 119 seats.
Apart from that, it has exposed another weakness of Janata Dal (United), that is, it has no strong candidates of its own and only relies on borrowings or party-hoppers. The party already banks on the BJP cadres for booth management. Now, they had to depend on the candidates from other parties, especially RJD.
The other problem with the Janata Dal (United) is that it is wasting more time and energy in winning back old leaders who have past their prime such as former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, former national president Sharad Yadav and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, all in mid-70s. Besides, efforts are on to induct former police officers and bureaucrats. A former director general of police rank officer, Sunil Kumar, a Dalit, has already been inducted into the party and media reports suggest that ex-DGP K S Dwivedi and the present one Gupteshwar Pandey may also get the party ticket for the Assembly election.
However, Pandey, who is to retire early next year, denied such reports. But it cannot be totally ruled out that he nurses political ambition as he had taken retirement ahead of 2009 Lok Sabha election and even sought BJP ticket from Buxar parliamentary seat, his home turf. He returned to service only after he didn’t get the ticket.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views are personal.)