Bihar’s shattered mahagathbandhan pitches BJP into pole position for 2019

Nitish Kumar’s decision to dissolve JD(U)’s Bihar coalition government with RJD and Congress and re-establish its alliance with BJP has significant implications for national politics. Nitish’s move effectively restores the coalition regime that was ruling Bihar till 2013. The immediate provocation for the development appears to be corruption charges against deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav. But tensions between JD(U) and RJD have been simmering for a while with Nitish taking political positions congruent to BJP – his support for demonetisation and NDA’s presidential candidate being cases in point.

Plus, internal contradictions had started showing up within Bihar’s mahagathbandhan with RJD ministers and MLAs undermining Nitish’s position as CM by constantly deferring to Lalu Prasad. From Nitish’s point of view all these factors had made running the state a difficult task. And given that JD(U) shared a good working relationship with BJP during their earlier tie-up, dissolving the mahagathbandhan became a beneficial prospect for Nitish. This provides a huge psychological boost to BJP and puts it in an even stronger position with respect to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In that sense, it was smart of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP top brass to quickly endorse the tie-up with JD(U) and project Nitish’s decision as a bold move against corruption.

The mahagathbandhan was supposed to be a template for opposition parties to join forces for 2019. The JD(U)-RJD-Congress coalition’s emphatic victory in the 2015 Bihar polls had demonstrated that it was indeed possible to halt the Modi wave. Unravelling of the mahagathbandhan today deals a heavy blow to the opposition project and anti-BJP parties will now have to return to the drawing board to come up with fresh strategies. In the final analysis the mahagathbandhan turned out to be a cynical coming together of opposition parties. Even the secular plank it offered to counter BJP wasn’t a strong enough glue to hold the coalition together sans genuine chemistry.

If opposition parties are to repeat the exercise in 2019 they must rethink their ‘secular’ brand. The only way out is to conceive a version of secularism that appeals across the social spectrum. In addition, a common and positive vision for such a coalition would be ideal. On BJP’s side, they have been in campaign mode since 2014 and it’s all coming together now. BJP must pay more attention to governance matters, else its sheen will fade.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.