The model of merger of the Janta Parivar under the leadership of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is unlikely to succeed now, in year 2015.
Leaders of six Janata parties [Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Indian National Lok Dal and Samajwadi Janata Party] were due to meet in New Delhi to discuss the merger under Mulayam's leadership. The meeting has become important ahead of the assembly election in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh scheduled later this year and early 2017, respectively.
The BJP has mocked the proposed merger as "zero plus zero remains a zero" and claimed that it would come to power in Bihar after this year's election.
The BJP's mockery is just a political reaction and sounds funny but there is indeed a realistic side to the story. The Janata Parivar is getting irrelevant fast in today's India and a merger is unlikely to turn the story around for it.
Here are five reasons why the Janata Parivar is getting obsolete and stands little chance to challenge and defeat the establishment?
Leaders of the Janata Parivar like Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Nitish Kumar are not getting any younger and to call for a new political experimentation now to challenge those in power will be an uphill task for them.
Loss of credibility:
These leaders had once emerged as followers of the force that had challenged the authority of Indira Gandhi. They represented a form of democracy and later practised the politics of social empowerment to enhance their respective political grip.
But with time, their brand of politics became identical with fragile governance and little development. Nitish Kumar was the only leader who had excelled as the chief minister but his political harakiri in Bihar after the rise of Narendra Modi in the BJP and NDA and the handling of the Jitan Majhi episode have also reduced his appeal.
Lalu Prasad is already a convicted politician while Mulayam Singh Yadav and Om Prakash Chautala are not perceived to be leaders with clean images.
Decline of the Congress:
The Janata parties, although capitalised on the fall of the Congress for their own political benefits but eventually they have joined hands with the same Congress to remain close to power.
Their stake in the secular vote-bank disallowed them to ally with the BJP and now with the Congress itself in the doldrums, these parties and their leaders can't do much to make any big impact nationally. A win or two here and there and an increase of vote-share time and again could be the only positives from the merger but nothing more than that, at least till the BJP era continues.
Loss of face as regional players:
Parties like SP, JD(U), RJD, JD(S) and INLD have seen a steep decline in their fortunes even as the regional players in the recent past. These parties performed poorly in their respective home states in the Lok Sabha election last year and things haven't improved significantly to suggest that they have regained the lost ground for the assembly polls.
With poor credibility record, the Janata parties have little to offer new
The INLD couldn't win in Haryana in the recent assembly poll while the SP is facing a serious anti-incumbency mood in Uttar Prades with almost two years to go for the next polls. The JD(U) and RJD have set aside their rivalry to stop the BJP and managed victories in the by-polls held in August last year. The fifth party, the Samajwadi Janata Party, is not a significant player.
Not in tune with the middle-class voter sentiments:
These leaders represent a political culture which can be identified more with the India of the 1980s and 1990s when the Congress system collapsed, creating space for other players to compete. The brand of social empowerment politics based on the idea of social division is something that the young, refined and tech-savvy middle-class voters of the Union do not feel convinced about.
And to the disadvantage of the Lalus and Mulayams, these middle-class voters, whose opinions are shaped largely by a neo-liberal and elitist media, make a big impact on elections in today's India, directly or indirectly.
The Janata Parivar lacks a mechanism to deal with this challenge thrown at it by the changing India that opts a fresh leader like Narendra Modi at the helm, even if he takes time to bring any substantial change on the ground.