RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav may appear magnanimous by letting his one-time rival Nitish Kumar complete his hatrick as chief minister, but it may in reality turn out to be a very shrewd political move from a man who was almost written off as a spent force.
The Bihar elections were portrayed as a fight between the BJP and everybody else, but in the poltiical imagination, Lalu had been seen as little more than a minor player. Expectations from the BJP were high, as the party had won 22 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state last year. However, while early trends showed a lead for the BJP, it emerged that the has been reduced to a little more than half the seats it won in 2010.
Practically none of the exit polls or opinion polls predicted such a drubbing for the BJP, and now, the number of seats won by RJD is being discussed threadbare by political pundits.
Although official figures have not yet been released at the time of writing, the RJD has not just fared better at the hustings than Nitish’s JDU, it has also emerged as the single largest party in the state. This circumstance has surprised not just political observers, but also the parties in the fray, all of whom had relegated Lalu to a minor role.
This is because the RJD did have a glorious past – the party ruled the state thrice before slipping into hard times.
RJD had won only 22 seats in the 2010 Assembly polls, and no one could foresee a comeback for the party even after it did better than the JDU in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning four seats agianst JDU’s two.
Now, Lalu’s gesture to allow Nitish Kumar to be CM may seem generous, but in reality, may be a far more calculative move. The Mahaghatbandhan or the Grand alliance is thought to be the brainchild of Lalu Yadav who sensed that this could be his last chance to be back in the limelight.
In a move to counter the Modi wave, Lalu devised a strategy to unite with friends and foes alike. He got bitter rival Nitish Kumar and his ally since 1990, the Congress, on board for what became known as the Mahagathbandhan – an anti-NDA alliance.
Following tough negotiations, the seat-sharing was formally announced and there was speculation that Lalu Yadav would remotely control the government if the alliance came to power. This is likely to happen, as even if Nitish is the chief minister, the RJD’s numbers give Lalu a lot of clout in the governmen that will be formed. This, would allow Lalu to retain his support base, not for himself, but for his children (who are likely to be made ministers in the JDU-led government).