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The Great Game in Bihar: how to read the Lalu-Nitish deal

N Kumar | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:39 IST

The alliance

  • Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have arrived at a seat sharing arrangement for the Bihar polls
  • RJD and JD(U) will contest 100 seats each, Congress 40 and 3 may go to NCP
  • Lalu and Nitish will address a Swabhiman Rally in Patna on August 30
  • This puts to rest speculation that the alliance will break

The hitches

  • The two leaders have very different approaches
  • During the press conference, Nitish invoked Bihari pride and attacked Modi on the DNA remark
  • Lalu engaged in rhetoric, in contrast to Nitish\'s logical approach

The BJP is slowly gaining the upper hand in the Bihar Assembly elections. But the saffron juggernaut won't roll in without a fight.

Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad have managed to chalk out a seat sharing arrangement for the polls.

By doing so, they have belied the hopes of the BJP and its allies that the alliance would break at the seat distribution stage.

The two Janata chieftains seem to have set aside their respective egos to finally seal the deal.

The deal

The two leaders announced the alliance in Patna on Wednesday, in the presence of Congress leader CP Joshi. They announced that the Janata Dal (United) and Rashtriya Janata Dal will contest 100 seats each and the Congress will be given 40 seats.

There is no word on the remaining three seats but it is being said that these will be allotted to the Nationalist Congress Party.

The speculation that the alliance would break, wasn't without basis. While the NDA constituents - BJP, LJP, RLSP and even new entrant Jitan Ram Manjhi - were seen as working in close coordination, Lalu and Nitish preferred to handle their campaigns independently.

BJP leaders constantly took jibes asking the two chieftains why they weren't even clicking a picture together.

However, the joint press conference by Nitish and Lalu on Wednesday as well as the declaration of a combined 'Swabhiman Rally' on August 30 in Patna, has silenced the critics.

Doubts remain

Many questions still remain unanswered.

Will the two stalwarts be comfortable in campaigning together? Even if they do, will they be able to convince the voters?

During the press conference, both leaders followed their own respective styles. The more measured Nitish stressed on Bihar's pride by taking exception to Modi's categorisation of Bihar as a 'Bimaru' state as well as his DNA comment.

Nitish and Lalu have finally struck a deal. But their public bonhomie doesn't conceal tensions in the alliance

Lalu on the other hand was more rhetorical. He said that it has stopped raining in Bihar ever since Modi began visiting the state. He also asserted that Nepal was hit by an earthquake after Modi went there.

Listening to Lalu's grandiose claims, some fear that he hopes to rule Bihar with the same stick as he did 25 years ago. Nitish, too, appeared ruffled by his alliance partner's rhetoric.

However, the chief minister is helpless as Lalu has made it clear that he is in the alliance on his own terms. This is evident from the distribution of seats. Nitish was adamant that JD(U) deserves a larger share as it has 114 MLAs.

Lalu countered this by arguing that the distribution should be on the basis of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which the RJD had a much better vote share than the JD(U).

Communists 'left' out?

With the rest of the seats going to the Congress and perhaps the NCP, it is also clear that there is no scope of the inclusion of the Left parties.

The CPI is supporting Nitish's government as of now. CPI(ML) is another prominent party in the state. The party may not have any representative in the assembly but it has significant base in parts of Bihar. Nitish Kumar had worked with the CPI(ML) during initial days of his career.

It is believed he will figure out a way to keep the Left parties with him, since he has now parted ways with the BJP.

First published: 12 August 2015, 11:36 IST
N Kumar @CatchNews

Is a freelance journalist based in Patna. He writes prolifically on politics, caste and economic reforms.