The Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in Bihar scripted a new chapter in Bihar’s politics when they ended Lalu Prasad’s 15-year-old Rashtriya Janata Dal rule in 2005. Since then, the NDA stayed put in power till Chief Minister Nitish Kumar finally pulled the plug, rewinding the state politics back to the ‘90s.
Challenging the Yadav dominance in backward class politics, Nitish Kumar, a Kurmi, broke away from the erstwhile Janata Dal (JD) in 1994, with his OBC Kurmi and Koeri caste supporters.
Along with George Fernandes he formed the Samata Dal, which forged an alliance with the BJP for the 1996 general elections.
Ties between the former socialists (Mr. Kumar participated in the JP movement) and the Hindutva party deepened in 1996, where the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the country and second largest party in Bihar.
On the other hand, JD suffered a nationwide debacle and Mr. Prasad got a drubbing in Bihar. “The unity between the SD [Samata Dal of Mr. Kumar] and the BJP, who forged a powerful coalition of the Kurmis, the Koiris against the Yadav dominated coalition of Lalu Yadav proved to be disastrous for the Lalu-led JD in the long run”. (Source: ‘Community Warriors – State, Peasants and Caste Armies in Bihar by Ashwini Kumar)
A year later, Mr. Prasad quit JD and floated RJD.
With a deepening crisis in JD, the Sharad Yadav-led faction of JD along with Mr. Fernandes and Mr. Kumar, and senior BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani began to piece together, and the National Democratic Alliance was formed in 1998.
The architects of NDA agreed upon a Common Minimum Programme, which excluded the core agenda of the BJP, namely the Ram temple issue, abrogation of article 370 of the Constitution pertaining to special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a uniform civil code.
The JD(U) was born from the merger of the Sharad Yadav faction, Lok Janshakti Party and SD within the NDA on October 30, 2003. The NDA thus pieced together was an ingenious combination of various castes from top to bottom.
In a famous statement signalling the backward class assertion of the ‘90s Mr. Prasad declared, “Bhura bal saaf karo (eliminate Bhumihars, Brahmins, Rajputs, Lalas or Kayasthas).”
Mr. Kumar arrested this process with his agenda of “Agada, Pichada Ek Ho (Forward and Backward Unite)” (source: Ashwini Kumar)
The JD(U) with its Kurmi and Koeri supporters, plus a chuck of Muslims and Dalit voters, and the BJP with its upper caste vote base joined forces to dent the march of backward class politics in the state. As the NDA decimated Mr. Prasad, it also brought back the upper castes in the echelons of power.
NDA’s elections in Bihar
The SP and BJP contested together in the 1996 general election and later under the NDA umbrella. It was not until the 1999 Lok Sabha election that Mr. Prasad’s down-slide began. The BJP-JD (U) formulation secured 41 of the 51 seats in Bihar (before separation from Jharkhand), and the RJD’s seat share plunged to seven seats from 17 in the previous year’s Lok Sabha polls. However, the RJD’s vote share increased from 26 to 29 per cent from 1998 to 1999.
Mr. Prasad bounced back in the 2000 Assembly polls, albeit with a reduced vote share. In the then 342-member assembly, he bagged 124 seats, becoming the single largest party in the State. The BJP and JD(U) together won 108 seats and took the tally to 125 along with other allies. However, the NDA could not muster the numbers and Mr. Kumar had to resign as Chief Minister soon after assuming office. With Congress’ support Rabri Devi took the reins of the State.
By 2004, the NDA-led ‘India Shining’ had backfired and the alliance took a beating in Bihar (now separated from Jharkhand) just like it did at the Centre. In the Lok Sabha elections that year the RJD wrested 22 seats and scooped 30 per cent of the vote share leaving the BJP and JD (U) with a total share of 11 seats and 36 per cent votes.
The watershed event in Bihar’s politics came in the 2005 State assembly polls, when the NDA first tasted power in the State. The NDA bagged 143 seats and the RJD-led Secular Democratic Front stood at only 65 seats in the 243-member assembly. The JD (U)’s and RJD’s vote share was almost on par at 26 and 28 per cent respectively. Mr. Kumar became the Chief Minister of Bihar and crafted the idea of good governance.
The NDA worked its magic for the second time in Bihar sweeping the 2010 State polls. The JD (U) currently has 118 MLAs, BJP 91 and RJD 22. Their respective vote percentages were 22, 16 and 18.
Meanwhile, with four MPs out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 general elections, the RJD has been debilitated at the Centre. The JD (U) has 20 MPs and BJP 12.
The recent Maharajganj Lok Sabha bye-election was the last of the NDAs contests in Bihar. The alliance suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the RJD. With the socialists being single again, this is a déjà vu moment for Bihar’s politics.