It was 1977 when after the Emergency new political alignments were emerging. There was talk of merger between the party created by Babu Jagjivan Ram and H N Bahuguna, the Congress for Democracy (CFD), and the Swatantra Party of various erstwhile rulers of rajwadas, Congress O, many socialist parties and Jan Sangh among others, to take on the then mighty Congress (I) in the forthcoming general election for Parliament. There was a animated debate between the concerned political groups about whether to include Jan Sangh, or to keep it out altogether on account of its strident ‘Hindu’ character.
Coming from a socio-politically agile family, I was all of 18 years old with a very enthusiastic anti-Congress position. I told people around me that Jan Sangh should not be included in the coalition as their ideology was markedly different from all the other parties. Secondly, the Indian public had been repeatedly rejecting them and their ideology through several elections. Jan Sangh was primarily supported by the trading community, some Brahmins, and upper cast people who were part of the RSS. I felt that because of this coalition Jan Sangh would get legitimacy. I was too young to be taken seriously by the people who were part of the decision making, including my eldest brother, late Jawed Habib, who was the President of the Aligarh Muslim University Students Union at that time, and also very close to Babuji and Bahuguna ji.
The flickering, dim flame of Jan Sangh’s symbol, the lamp, burned bright for the first time in electoral politics when its nominees got to ride the ‘haldhar’ symbol of Janata Party, mopping up a whopping a good number of the total 298 seats won by latter. Though I was proved right, the euphoria of being able to dislodge Congress was so overwhelming that everybody took this development in his or her stride. I feel if Jan Sangh had not been merged with Janata Party at that time, it would not even have matched the previous insignificant success, let alone garner additional strength.
This phase of coalition ended because of the dual membership issue of Janata Party and RSS, with the JP members pointing out that the new additions could not retain their membership of RSS while claiming to be members of Janata Party. The RSS members refused to relent, resulting in the fall of Janata Party government and formation of Bhartiya Janata Party by Jan Sangh members in 1980.
BJP entered into many electoral pacts with all and sundry from then onwards with the one simple aim of getting a foothold in as many states as possible, and enlarging the footprints of its own. Historically, it has been in the habit of strategically aligning with small state political parties and subsequently annihilating them. The same principle that worked in 1977 for Jan Sangh continued, with BJP getting acceptance because of collating with a local party. Within no time the local party would get dwarfed by the organizational strength, RSS support and money muscle of the BJP.
This happened repeatedly, with predictable monotony, in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Assam, etc. At this juncture, Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) in Bihar is about to be added to the list of the vanquished.
Today Nitish Kumar is on his weakest moral, political, and organizational ground and BJP is patiently waiting to deliver the fatal blow on the JD (U). JD (U) is weak organizationally; its members, currently in a state of moral dilemma, are not persuaded of Nitish Kumar’s diabolical decision to go with the BJP. They are probably ready to run to any party that provides them with some stability and right now, BJP is best placed to fulfill this need. Nitish Kumar is set to become the Praful Mohanta of Assam. At one time Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) was the senior partner with BJP. Today it is surviving on borrowed oxygen from BJP. Nitish Kumar completely lost the plot in his overweening greed to increase political clout within Bihar beyond the position of Chief Minister that he anyway held.
This surely must be most insecure period of his political career where everything is at stake. Losing old political comrades like Sharad Yadav, and then losing face in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha election where the lone JD (U) MLA went against his dictate of voting for the BJP. Most of the JD (U) office bearers and members from states other than Bihar are unhappy with his aligning with BJP at this stage and are either deserting him or waiting for a more opportune time to leave. He has some following among Muslims in Bihar but that is bound to plunge as time passes by. Muslims will ultimately move towards the RJD-Congress alliance. Sharad Yadav has suddenly acquired a stature, which had been eluding him for quite some time. He can now move up the ladder of political popularity, which will further erode Nitish’s reach.
At this moment does Nitish have options to safeguard his image and keep the supporters together? Yes, he does. If he makes his future moves more judiciously and at the right time. In fact, he may gain further ground of popularity and even get the support of those who didn’t support him earlier. It remains to be seen whether he will hurtle down the BJP trap of certain demise, or become wiser, and turn the tables on what appears to be a bleak scenario.
Nawed Akhter is a film maker and a political analyst based in Gurgaon.