News Analysis | National

The story behind the Mahagathbandhan break-up

RJD Leader Lalu Prasad and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar during latter's swearing-in ceremony in Patna on 20/11/2015. File photo   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s shift from being allied to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to forming a government with the BJP was effected in barely 14 hours. The speed of the transition may make it appear as though there was a certain inevitability built in it after law enforcement officials started investigating cases of graft against RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family. This however is not the whole story. The seeds of this break-up lie in the nature of the Mahagathbandhan (an unlikely alliance of once bitter rivals) and the  mandate it received in November 2015  with Lalu Prasad Yadav as the dominant partner.

Sources in the Janata Dal (U) say that the release of the Siwan strongman and former MP Shahabuddin, a member of the RJD’s National Committee, the top decision making body of the party, was the first trigger in what eventually led to the break-up. On the day of his release after 11 years in jail, Shahabuddin was welcomed, according to one report, by a cavalcade of 1,300 SUVs including RJD workers. He promptly declared that, for him, Nitish Kumar was a Chief Minister of “circumstances” and his real leader was Lalu Prasad. Mr. Kumar was left red-faced, and his clean image was the subject of much lampooning by the BJP that alleged that his government had smoothened the Siwan strongman’s path to bail.

Lalu's interference

“This also reflected that the internal contradictions of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad’s politics would plague the Mahagathbandhan. Lalu Prasad was intent on projecting his son, Tejaswi Yadav as the next generation leader, while Nitish Kumar felt hampered by the heavy presence of Lalu Prasad in administrative issues,” said a JD(U) source.

Mr. Kumar started to champ at the bit, inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Patna for the Prakash Utsav — the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh — where the two shared good vibes, showered praises on each other while being watched balefully from among the audience by the dominant partner in the Mahagathbandhan — Lalu Prasad.

Then came the Uttar Pradesh elections, for which the Bihar Chief Minister addressed big rallies and announced that he would field at least a hundred candidates. “A ground assessment however was made and Nitish Kumar withdrew from the field, and instructed partymen to remain sympathetic to Akhilesh Yadav,” said the source.

Support to Modi's decisions

BJP won big there, and Mr. Kumar despite the fact that he had left the NDA after Mr. Modi was declared the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate started getting closer to Mr. Modi. He supported Mr. Modi on demonetisation, and snubbed the Opposition grouping that he had helped put together for at least two lunches, preferring to dine with Prime Minister Modi and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.

Then came the enforcement cases against Mr. Prasad and the disclosure by the BJP’s Sushil Modi that a couple of RJD MPs had tried to cut a deal with two NDA Ministers at the Centre to ensure some protection in cases, and undermine JD(U)’s numbers. This was disclosed to Mr. Kumar, who decided that the end was nigh for the alliance. With precision timing, Mr. Kumar exited the Mahagathbandhan embrace, to be Chief Minister for the sixth time, and with a game plan for 2019.

Corrections & Clarifications: In the earlier version of this story, the strapline erroneously mentioned Syed Sahabuddin in the strapline. The correction has been carried out. The error is regretted.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 8:13:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/news-analysis-the-story-behind-the-mahagathbandhan-break-up/article19372179.ece

Next Story