April 25, 2015

ONE BIG, HAPPY FAMILY?

WILL THE REGIONAL BRIGADE SURVIVE

Janata Parivar 
Could this be 'Avengers' moment of Indian politics? Much like the movie series wherein several superheroes from the Marvel Comic world come together with the noble aim of saving the world from evil forces, last week, heads of six regional parties who are no less than 'superheroes' in the eyes of their followers joined hands to resurrect the erstwhile Janata Parivar, decades after the party splintered into numerous factions on account of personal rivalry, jealousy and ego hassles between its leadership. Of course, while they may claim that the reason for their coming together is to stop the rise of the 'Fascist' forces (read BJP), there is no doubt that the satraps, who played a key role in the formation of successive regimes in the Coalition Era are fighting for their political survival after being jolted in the General Elections 2014 when the Modi wave broke the traditional barriers of caste and region, something that these leaders and their parties usually thrive upon.

Whatever may be the reason for this realignment of political forces on the political spectrum, what is certain is that merger of the six outfits - the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Janata Dal - United (JD-U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Janata Dal - Secular (JD-S), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP) is all set to have major implications in the years to come, provided these factions stay together which in itself is going to be an herculean task. Though the modalities are being worked upon by a six member committee, former Uttar Pradesh CM and SP supremo Mulayum Singh Yadav has been named as the chief of the Janata Party in its new avtaar.

From the outside, the merger might not sound as 'such a big deal'. After all, the six parties together have 15 MPs in the Lower House of the Parliament and are in no position to stall reforms or counter the government that has a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha. Most of these old warhorses are in the twilight of their political careers with a majority of them being a mere shadow of what they were in their heyday. Besides, the three regional players who withstood the Modi juggernaut namely Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK, Mamata Bannerjee of the TMC and Navin Patnaik of the BJD have kept a safe distance from this new political entity. Thus the influence of the new look Janata Parivar is restricted to UP and Bihar apart from marginal presence in Haryana and Karnataka.

While the regional satraps may still be licking the wounds that they suffered in the May 2014 polls, writing off the new front would be a foolish decision. With the Modi government yet to fulfill most of the promises it made to the public during the course of the electoral campaign, the merger could help consolidate the anti-Modi or anti-BJP vote bank. Considering that many of these leaders including Mulayum Singh, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav have a solid Dalit - Muslim support base, the new front is all set to give tough electoral challenge to a new resurgent BJP ahead of the prestigious Bihar polls which is scheduled later this year. In fact, even in the by-polls held in Bihar and UP last year, the regional parties put up a formidable show against the saffron camp. Buoyed by these results and keen to regain lost ground, the merger will help strengthen the Opposition benches which looks scattered for the time being. Additionally, the party now has 30 MPs in the Rajya Sabha which is nearly half the number that the NDA has as of now, making it a force to reckon with in the Upper House.

The success of the Janata Parivar and its future will largely depend on the results of the Bihar Polls. A victory for the front will be a mega boost for the leadership and will completely stop the Modi bandwagon which received a jolt in the Delhi elections. In that scenario, more regional players would be keen in joining hands with the party either by the way of merger or alliance. The Congress and the Left parties who too are in no situation to take on the BJP at present would be interested in dealing with the Mualyum led party. On the other hand, a defeat at the hands of the BJP though could well bring down the curtains on the Parivar, months after it was formed.

The real threat for the JP is from within; will the Yadavs, the Kumars and the Chautalas bury their bitter past and move on, rather move on as a team? Can Mulayum whose hopes of becoming the PM were dashed by Lalu, ever be able to trust the latter? Can Lalu and Nitish ever be friends? After all, they would call each other all sorts of names till about an year ago, isn't it? Though we do not have any concrete answers to any of questions, what we can be sure of is that the revival of the Janata Parivar has only made Indian politics in general and Bihar polls in particular more interesting.