A Secular Response by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (November 10, 2014)
The get together of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Deve Gowda and Sharad Yadav over lunch at Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence in New Delhi has set off talks about revival of parts of the old Janata Party in coming days. The leaders at the lunch belong to JD (U), RJD and SP.
These parties have a presence in a wide arc of India, but have only 15 MPs in Lok Sabha and 25 in Rajya Sabha. They rule in Bihar and UP, which account for 120 MPs together. That’s a considerable power base if they act cohesively.
They can be an influential bloc in Parliament and act as a nuclus for a larger congregation around which secular parties can coalesce on a common minimum programme. To enjoy real strength they have to take on board the Left. To contend for power at the Centre they will have to give up their anti-Congressism and their old antipathies.
If everything goes well, they are hoped to merge together to form a new Janata Party early next year. But here is a big “if”, because they have a record of being fractious. The new conglomerate’s chief is going to be Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has never been known to respect “coalition dharma.”
Already there are people who say the group will not adhere together for any significant length of time. Lalu Yadav is already said to be jostling for a prominent position, while Mulayam Singh has the image of a coalition breaker. The Times of India predicts that it will end up like the Janata Party ended within three years of its rule.
Despite it’s avowed anti-Congressism, the Janata Party has been a watered down version of the Congress Party, like which it is left of centre and distinct from the Communists on the Left and the BJP on the right. Its constituency overlaps that of the Congress. This could be a disadvantage for both the groups as they can tap into each other’s support base, giving the BJP an opportunity to fleet by.
The Janata Party in the making has to be cautious because even small mistakes can make them lose power in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which are going to the polls in 2015 and 2017 respectively. That will be a great setback for the secular front in India. Their loss will be BJP’s gain.