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Mainstream, VOL LIII , No 38, New Delhi, September 12, 2015

Sangh’s Chessboard and Hostile Secular Forces

Sunday 20 September 2015

by Arun Srivastava

Nitish faces the most potentthreat of losing the crucial election to the Bihar Assembly from his secular friends than his communal adversaries. At a time when it appeared that Nitish was high and going great guns, came the psychological set back in the form of the Samajwadi Party refusing to contest the elections and withdrawing from the election arena.

The justification cited by the Samajwadi leadership not to go to polls as alliance partner is indeed ridiculous. Ram Gopal Yadav, the brother of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, said: “Constituents did not honour the principle of coalition dharma in the distribution of seats. We learnt from the media about five seats given to us. The SP felt humiliated as ‘big’ parties of the [grand] alliance did not consult it while declaring candidates for the Bihar polls.” Ram Gopal might have been right in his assertion. But he ought to explain whether the SP is really a potent political force for going to elections on its own.

Though senior leaders of the mahagathbandhan, especially from Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) are trying to assuage the sentiments of the Samajwadi Party chief and prevail upon him not to desert the alliance, it is really intriguing how leaders, who have been urging the people to look at the ensuing election which would eventually decide the fate of India and its future polity, would prefer to pursue this nature of step? Even a politically naive would vouch that Mulayam would simply endanger the secular front as even a shift of the smallest percentage of Yadav vote would benefit the saffron outfit. It would be exaggerations to say that behind the facade of lament the Samajwadi leadership was extending support to the BJP.

It is worth recalling their torpedoing the launch of the grand secular alliance at the national level. At that time Ram Gopal had come out with the explanation that the launch of an alliance at the national level was not feasible as the people would get confused just ahead of the Bihar elections. The parties could not reach a consensus on a common symbol. Now the same Ram Gopal asserts: “Our party’s Parliamentary Board took the decision today to fight the Bihar polls on our own. The party took decision to honour the feelings of the party workers in Bihar.”

The fact is that the SP has never been a force in Bihar. It is undeniable that the five seats offered to the SP was more than what the party deserved. What is really interesting is the revelation of Ram Gopal: “The SP could go into the polls along with other parties, talks are in primary stage now.” If the sources are to be believed, the SP leadership was working to float a front with the NCP and Left parties. In fact the Left parties also need a popular political face to steer their campaign and for acceptability. There is a lurking belief in the Left circle that Mulayam is safe bet than scam tainted Laloo Prasad. If the JD(U) fails to persuade the SP to return to the grand alliance, all these parties may forge a front of their own. Whatever votes these parties may garner would come from those that might otherwise be expected to go to the grand alliance.

Basically this is the reason that a desperate Sharad Yadav tried to dissuade Mulayam from parting company. Hours after the Samajwadi Party announced in Lucknow that it was pulling out of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U)-led grand alliance in Bihar, JD(U) President Sharad Yadav rushed to meet SP supremo Mulayam Singh to try and sort out the differences between the two parties. Sharad has been hopeful of the return of the SP. Emerging from the SP chief’s residence in Delhi, Yadav said: “There was an alliance, there is an alliance and the alliance will remain. Everything will be sorted out and an amicable solution will be found.” Nevertheless, he did not spell out the details of the compromise that is being worked out.

Though Laloo is a family relative of Mulayam Singh, the possible cancellation of his bail in the fodder scam has scared the Samajwadi Party leadership. Some senior Yadavs feel that it may create problems for them, in their home State. It is also argued that if they accept the five seats offered to them in that case the JD(U) and RJD may even stake claim for seats in the 2017 election to the UP State Assembly.

However, this ambivalent attitude of the party also raises one very important question: whether Mulayam Singh Yadav is losing his grip on the party. This perception is reinforced by the style of functioning of the Yadav brothers and their public utterances. At the August 30 Swabhiman Rally in Patna, SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav pledged full support to the cause of the grand alliance. During the rally he discussed the seat-sharing proposition. But once in Lucknow he made a retreat. He said: “The Janata Parivar in fact, never came into existence. I knew from the beginning that such things will occur during the Bihar Assembly polls and that was why I’d refused to sign the death warrant for our party. No more Janata Parivar now.”

If he was sure that the Janata Parivar was a failed experiment and would not acquire a definite shape and character, then he should not have at all ventured to share dais with the other alliance leaders. Shivpal’s stand also raises the question whether Mulayam was aware of his move. How could Mulayam allow his younger brother to take the alliance leadership on ride? This is certainly not fair even in politics.

Even as Nitish has been trying desperately to wriggle out of the crisis, the BJP—enthused with this sudden development inside the secular family—has stepped up its manoeuvrings for dividing the Yadav-Muslim unity. The BJP has been citing the exit of the SP from the alliance as the proof of Mulayam’s insult by Nitish. The BJP is using all its might and skill to win over the Yadavs. It is confident that a section of the creamy layer of the Yadav community would prefer to switch over to the BJP in view of the recent development.

If for the Mahagathbandhan it will be Bihari pride and the personality of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, for the BJP it will be the new form of social engineering. While Nitish is caught in the quagmire of fraternal bickering, the BJP is going ahead with its programme of micro-management at the constituency level. It is not just the upper-caste Brahmins, Bhumihars, Kayasthas and Rajputs, the BJP is also striving to have OBCs and mahadalits on its side. By presenting the insult to Mulayam, the BJP is trying to break the Muslim-Yadav unity of the RJD. With a split in the Yadav support base pegged at 16 per cent, the Muslims at 14.5 per cent, the BJP can expect to trounce Nitish.

In fact at the three-day “coordination” meeting of the top brass of the government, BJP and RSS, the prevailing situation and the ground realities existing in Bihar were deliberated extensively. The Sangh would deploy a large contingent of its swayamsevaks and cadres to undertake and supervise the coordination at the block and constituency levels. The meeting also directed the Modi Government to move in the right direction with commitment and dedication. The RSS was hopeful that the Sangh intensifying its activities and increasing the number of its shakhas in Bihar would ultimately help the BJP in putting a stiff challenge to Nitish and his Mahagathbandhan.

The RSS reviewed the performance of the Modi Government and found that it has not done enough to instil confidence in the people at the ground level. It was also felt that retired government officials should be given a chunk of the nomination for the Assembly elections. This would put the party in an advantageous position.

RSS functionaries were quite happy with the emerging political scenario in the State. But some of the RSS leaders were not happy particularly with the BJP chief, Amit Shah. They nursed the feeling that it is his inability to build a strong bridge with the rank and file and cadres that has failed to enthuse them and put the organisation in a tight situation. Some RSS leaders also sought to know the steps that have been initiated to consolidate the gains in the wake of the BJP coming to power.

Though Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat was “very satisfied” with the functioning and achievements of Modi, some in the Sangh nursed that no serious attempt was made for their visibility at the ground level. Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented the performances of his government at the co-ordination meeting. Apparently he was not disappointed with the RSS’ appraisal of his government but he had no nice words of appreciation. Modi attended the meeting on the third and final day of the first of its kind of deliberations where a broad range of issues have figured. Modi delivered a 15-minute address at the meet attended by 93 delegates of the RSS-affiliated organisations and almost his entire Council of Ministers, and the BJP’s Parliamentary Board.

The conclave rightly drew flak from the Opposition which questioned the closed-door consultation between the government and the RSS. In fact Modi set an unprecedented example by presenting his Cabinet colleagues before the RSS bosses. This was no doubt against the constitutional norms and spirit. The Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers take an oath under the Constitution that they won’t disclose their plans and policies with those who are not under constitutional oath.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52@gmail.com