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Highs and lows of Bihar's winning alliance

Source: PTI
November 24, 2010 19:29 IST
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The long-standing Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal-United alliance stood the test of time again with the combine scoring a landslide victory in the Bihar assembly polls on the development plank, decimating Rashtriya Janata DalĀ chief Lalu Prasad, Lok Janashakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan and even the Congress which was banking on the Nehru-Gandhi family's magic.

In the run-up to the Bihar assembly elections there were several times when many people wrote the alliance's obituary. However, the maturity of the top leadership in both parties and the need to stick together to ensure the upper caste and Vaish community votes of the BJP with other backward class votes of the JD-U went to the alliance. The relations between the parties were strained during the BJP national executive meeting at Patna in June when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar objected to full-page newspaper advertisements showing him with his Gujarat counterpart and Hindutva hardliner Narendra Modi.

Nitish, who feared that such prominent display of Modi would wean away the Muslim voters cosying up to the JD-U, expressed his ire to the BJP leadership and many predicted the end of the 15-year-old alliance. In the negotiations that followed, the BJP assured Nitish that Modi would not campaign during the elections while extracting from the chief minister the promise that its share of 102 seats in the alliance would remain intact in the assembly elections. But so much was the fear of Modi that the alliance centered its campaign around the achievements of the Nitish-Sushil duo and avoided all references to Sushil's Modi surname.

The JD-U is the second political party after the Shiv Sena, which joined the BJP-led NDA alliance in 1995. In 2005, the party had contested 141 seats and won 88 while the BJP was in the fray in 102 seats and won 55. The BJP later lost one seat in a by-election.

Wednesday's results have come as a pleasant surprise to the BJP, which won 86 seats this time. With the JD-U managing 110 seats, both parties give credit for the more than two-thirds majority in the 243-member assembly to the alliance.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said while the 2005 elections were a negative vote against the RJD government, this time the verdict was "a positive vote for the alliance".

"We are proud of their leadership and the way they ran the coalition and government. A few things have stood out. People wanted a repeat of the government under Nitesh Kumar's leadership indicates that it is a victory of hope over fear and optimism over despair," he said.

Some BJP central leaders from Bihar, who were against the alliance with JD-U, felt the Bihar CM was too autocratic and also accused their party leader and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of dutifully toeing the Nitish line which was harming the party's prospects.

In 2008, there was even a minor rebellion against the deputy CM by BJP members of the legislative assembly but the central leadership managed to control it.

BJP patriarch L K Advani, who still fondly recalls how he had taken the initiative to forge this alliance with the JD-U in 1995, and others were firmly of the opinion that the BJP stood no chance without the JD-U and the alliance was beneficial to the party. Many also expressed apprehensions that Nitish Kumar may with the Congress, but the BJP top brass argued that he had cut his political teeth in the Jayaprakash Narayan movement of the 1970s, which was against Congress "misrule", and so could not align with that party.

Nitish Kumar did seem to endanger the alliance when he tried to send overtures to the Muslim community and appeared to send signals that in continuing with the alliance with BJP, the JD-U would lose these minority votes. However, the BJP senior leaders ensured the alliance did not break.

With the BJP puttingĀ in a stellar performance in the assembly elections this time, the party's position in the coalition has been strengthened. This should put all talk of chances of cracks in the alliance on the backburner.
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