Pan-India Mahagathbandhan against BJP in offing, Nitish-Lalu can lead charge against Modi-Shah in 2019

Vaibhav Tiwari
The Nitish-Lalu duo has turned out as the most formidable pair against BJP's dream team of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

New Delhi, April 04: The Uttar Pradesh Assembly election results have made two things pretty clear– the Congress party has no hopes of a revival in the next two years and that defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019 will be exceedingly difficult. With a performing government at the Centre and strong governments in states, the Amit Shah-Narendra Modi juggernaut has been taking giant electoral strides. A non-existent Congress party’s atrocious electioneering has allowed the BJP to rule over 61% people of the country through its state governments. In the absence of a national opposition, it has come upon formidable regional players to put some competition to the BJP. A pan-India Mahagathbandhan of ‘secular’ forces seems to be the answer and the leading anti-BJP voice–Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar–is calling the regional players onboard the secular bandwagon.

Both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav on Monday emphasised on the urgency to take the gigantic project to bring the divided Opposition together. “The BJP victory was mainly because there was no Bihar-like grand alliance…The vote percentage of Congress-SP alliance and the BSP together is 10% more than the votes polled by the BJP there,” the Hindi quoted Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He added: “A Mahagathbandan like this will be maha safal.”

Nitish Kumar’s foe-turned-ally, Lalu Prasad Yadav told national daily Hindustan, that he was working towards bringing the divided House together against the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“I have started talks. I am talking via phones as well. Then, I will meet them. To form a Mahagathbandan is not my responsibility alone. I don’t have a personal stake in it as I am not in the prime ministerial race. I will play my role to defeat the fascist forces,” he said.

“My party (RJD), the JDU and the Congress had come together against the BJP in Bihar. See the results,” he added.

Lalu Prasad Yadav has a point. Modi magic has failed to work in places with a strong regional opposition. This includes West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Delhi. Another state where the Bharatiya Janata Party faced a humiliating loss was Bihar where Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar set aside personal differences to forge an alliance: the grand alliance got 178 seats against BJP’s 58 seats. However, only an alliance in Bihar won’t suffice. Such an alliance is very much needed in Uttar Pradesh. (Also read: Yogi Adityanath chairs first Cabinet meeting, announces loan waiver of up to Rs 1 lakh for small farmers)

In 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party entered an alliance with the Samajwadi Party. Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav tried to cut a development men image for themselves. They also tried to sell their comparatively younger age to attract youths. However, in a state where caste and religious equations decide political fates of the party, they faced a humiliating defeat.  While the NDA got 325 seats in its kitty with a vote share of 42 per cent, alliance got just 54 seats with a dismal vote share of 28%.

The biggest difference between the alliances in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh was the presence of a strong third player. The Bihar election had become a two-way fight, which was the clash between two ideologies. In Uttar Pradesh, the presence of the third player, the BSP, spoiled the game for the alliance. The BSP and the SP divided the Muslim votes among themselves, handing the advantage to the BJP. As Lalu Prasad Yadav pointed out, if the BSP had been in the Mahagathbandhan, they may have stopped the BJP as their total vote share would have 52% which is far greater than the BJP’s.

The Nitish-Lalu duo has turned out as the most formidable pair against BJP’s dream team of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. They would have to work really hard to bring regional players together. Without their interference, BSP supremo Mayawati may not come on board. That Akhilesh Yadav has agreed to an alliance with Mayawati is a good sign.Uttar Pradesh is not the only difficult alliance. The TMC and the Left are arch-nemesis in West Bengal. Same is the case in Tamil Nadu as the DMK and the AIADMK are bitter rivals. The Nitish-Lalu duo will have to play the tough role of the pacifier to realise the dream of a grand alliance. The role of Congress is also very crucial.  It would have to show magnanimity in seat allocation to junior partners. If the party plays hardball, there wouldn’t be an alliance.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party is also in poll mode. The party is preparing for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, where it has a great chance of winning. After that, it will automatically start strategising for the assembly elections to 5 states in 2018. Lalu Prasad Yadav predicted that the party may call for an early general election. He said that there was no time to waste and that it was to do or die. Perhaps, he is right in his assertion.

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