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JD(U) makes its ambitions clear: its mission is "Nitish Kumar 2019"

Atul Chaurasia | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 2:28 IST

The meeting

  • JD(U)\'s national executive passed a resolution on Sunday calling for a national grand alliance
  • The hidden mission seems to be to project Nitish Kumar as PM candidate in 2019

The hitches

  • JD(U) has very little presence outside Bihar
  • It\'s national ambitions will place it in competition with the Congress

More in the story

  • How is the JD(U) going about its national plans?
  • Which states offer the possibility of a grand alliance?
  • Is it feasible to project Nitish as the PM candidate?

It's official. After winning Bihar, Nitish Kumar has set his eyes towards national politics.

A significant political development went largely unnoticed last Sunday. The National Executive members of the Janata Dal (United) met in Delhi to deliberate over its future strategy.

Also read - Congratulations Nitish Kumar! But here's what we'll be watching you for

The meeting was presided over by Sharad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was its most high profile participant. The resolution passed in the meeting speaks volumes about the new found self confidence of the JD(U) after its resounding victory in Bihar.

"Five states are slated to go to the polls next year. The national executive has decided to explore the possibilities of a grand alliance in these states on the lines of Bihar. The party has decided to resurrect an alternative at the national level. We will join hands with like minded parties to counter BJP," it reads.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, JD(U0 General Secretary KC Tyagi said, "The days of one party's dominance are over. We will unite all parties of similar ideologies to forge a viable alternative at the national level."

Congress' irrelevance creates a vacuum

The JD(U)'s stand has many connotations. Currently, Congress led UPA holds the position of principle opposition alliance at the centre. The proposition of forging yet another alternative to NDA is like showing a mirror to the grand old party in such a situation.

Senior journalist Neerja Chowdhury believes that this is natural as the UPA is losing relevance.

"Where is the UPA in the current scenario? The Congress is no longer in a position to assert its will over other opposition parties," she says.

Nitish and the JD(U) have set their eyes on the future. Of course, the party is careful not to explicitly project Nitish as the face of this anti-NDA alliance as it might offend the Congress.

In its resolution, the JD(U) has promised to join hands with like minded parties to counter BJP

But it seems clear that the Bihar CM is keen to come out of the Congress' shadow at the national level.

"Bihar has sent a message to the entire country. People are looking at Nitish Kumar as a beacon of hope against fascism and fundamentalism. He is sure to emerge at the forefront of the fight against the current government. The national executive has urged him to fulfill this responsibility," says JD(U) MP Ali Anwar.

Reality check

But the reality is that the JD(U) is not a major player outside Bihar, least of all in the 5 states that are going to the polls in 2016: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry.

Even the BJP, which the JD(U) has vowed to counter in these polls, has a negligible presence in all these states except Assam.

Ironically, the JD(U) had contested 8 seats in Tamil Nadu in 2011 in alliance with the BJP. It drew a blank.

This puts the whole premise of Executive Committee resolution to question.

According to Neerja Chowdhury, the only alliance possible in these elections is between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress. Even this would be an anti-Left Front alliance rather than an anti-BJP one.

But with the Left parties showing little signs of resurgence, even this alliance seems a remote possibility. Mamata Banerjee's TMC might not require anyone's support to retain her chair at Kolkata's Writer's Building.

Nitish Kumar's national ambitions will place him in direct competition with the Congress

Even though the JD(U) has no presence in Assam, Nitish has apparently taken the lead in trying to bring together the Congress, Asom Gana Parishad, and All India United Democratic Front as part of a grand anti-BJP alliance.

However, this is be easier said than done.

"A Congress-AIUDF alliance can lead to massive polarisation among the voters of Assam. This will directly benefit BJP and the Congress would never go for that. A grand alliance in Assam might backfire," says Chowdhury.

Ali Anwar has a different take on this. "It is true that we have no presence in these states. But it is our responsibility to unite like-minded parties and stop the BJP from coming to power," he says.

Also read - Narendra Modi makes Nitish Kumar look like a statesman, says Arun Shourie

Real mission is 2019

It seems that the JD(U) resolution and mission to form a grand alliance in each of the poll bound states is aimed at projecting Nitish at the national level. The real mission, therefore, is 2019 not 2016.

The JD(U)'s ally in Bihar, the RJD, believes it is premature to think about 2019.

"One must aim to form a grand alliance at the national level. But it is too early to say who would lead this alliance. The 2019 elections are still far away," said RJD chief Lalu Prasad.

Chowdhury concurs. "It is premature to say that Nitish Kumar would be the most prominent Opposition leader in 2019. However, he does seem to be moving in that direction. Whether he succeeds or not, will depend on the outcome of 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. There is a real possibility for a grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh," she said.

All said and done, Nitish has succeeded in halting the Narendra Modi juggernaut in Bihar. This makes him the first among equals in the Opposition camp, at least for now.

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First published: 23 December 2015, 9:46 IST