Janata convergence

April 18, 2015 12:05 am | Updated December 03, 2021 12:37 pm IST

The > coming together of six different elements of the erstwhile Janata Dal in the form of a new party, more than 20 years after splitting away, marks a political development of some significance. The decision to unite springs from their abysmally poor performance in the last general election and the need therefore to consolidate — or perish. Nevertheless, this formation will pose a challenge to the BJP in those very States from where the party won a bulk of its Lok Sabha seats: Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Not just that, even though these parties separately were regarded as regional parties, the new formation will have the status and appearance of a national party, something that only the BJP, the Congress and to some extent the Left parties currently have. Indeed, so enthused was Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav after being elected president of the new party that he reminded journalists that whenever elements of the Janata Parivar have united they have ruled at the Centre, whether it was in 1989 under V.P. Singh or in 1996 under H.D. Deve Gowda. The yet-unnamed party is in power in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and has a significant presence in Haryana and Karnataka. In the Rajya Sabha it will be the third largest party with 30 MPs, behind only the Congress and the BJP. In the Lok Sabha its 15 MPs will make the party the eighth largest.

But after over five months of negotiations — and with Assembly polls in Bihar barely half a year away – the party still does not have a name, flag, symbol, policy document or organisational structure: so the reunion is not without its problems. The prime movers, the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which will have to square up to a resurgent BJP in Bihar this year, face an impending identity crisis. An agreement had been virtually reached on accepting the SP’s symbol, the bicycle, and a new name, the Samajwadi Janata Dal. But former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who quit the JD(U) to form his own party, and Pappu Yadav, RJD MP-turned-renegade, have staked claim to the symbols and flags of their original parties should they become available. This could jeopardise the new party’s chances in Bihar, where the RJD’s ‘lantern’ and the JD(U)’s ‘arrow’ have alternately > held sway since 1990 . But these issues will be overcome, just as the new party has decided on a federal structure that will give the State satraps sway in their areas of influence. It remains to be seen whether these leaders, known for their individualism, have learned the lessons of history. But the arithmetic — of consolidating the power of the OBCs who constitute over half the population, most of whom were lured away by Narendra Modi, a member of the OBC himself — could work in the new party’s favour.

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