Lalu-Nitish reunion: Is a post-poll Third Front taking shape in India?

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Is Lalu-Nitish reunion a new trend?
The effects of Narendra Modi's Blitzkrieg have still not receded in Bihar. The formal reunion of two friends-turned-foes of the state, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad at Hajipur on Monday, has reiterated that Bihar's politics has not been the same ever since the series of bombs exploded in the state capital during Modi's rally on October 27 last year.

Modi magic in Bihar since Oct 27 last year

The aftereffects of the October 27 blasts went in favour of the BJP as Modi made use of the opportunity to get closer to the people of Bihar by visiting the kin of those killed in the explosions. The next blow to the state politicians came in the general elections held in April-May this year. The BJP swept the state by winning 22 of 40 seats while Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) managed just four and Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) only two seats. Nitish Kumar even left the chief ministership of Bihar after Modi became the prime minister and decided to share the stage with Lalu Prasad after two long decades.

Nitish & Lalu desperate to gain some ground by the time the next assembly elections come

That the two leaders are desperate to regain their lost grounds is evident from the fact that they have decided to join hands ahead of a set of bypolls in the state scheduled on August 21 and not the assembly polls due next year. Even a year ago, Nitish Kumar was badly hit by Lalu Peasad after the latter's RJD bagged the Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat by defeating the JD(U) by over 1.3 lakh votes. A few days after the debacle, Nitish decided to leave the NDA after Modi's rise in the BJP's ranks. The writing was on the wall for Nitish Kumar ever since.

Lalu Prasad, on the other hand, is well past his prime and the recent conviction in the fodder scam has given a further blow to whatever the former chief minister had left with him.

The two seasoned but cornered politicians who once rose on the ruins of the Congress system have perhaps seen their last chance to remain afloat in the national politics. The two have joined hands for there is very little option left for them to make an impact in individual capacities. The only alternative they could have to stop the BJP was to align with the Congress but with that party literally lying among the ruins, Nitish and Lalu could not do anything but back each other.

A post-poll Third Front emerging in India?

The RJD chief even appealed to Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav, known to be arch-rivals in the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, to join hands. There is clearly an effort to raise a third alternative in the national politics at the moment. The country has seen the idea of Third Front taking root mainly in the times of national election. May be this is the first time that a Third Front is taking shape after a general election. The Congress is also there in the Nitish-Lalu alliance but given its current shape and form, it's nothing better than a glorified extra.

But what are the chances of such alliances succeeding?

Difficult to predict how two egoist politicians will move from here

It is difficult to predict how an alliance between Lalu and Nitish will develop in Bihar for the next assembly election is still quite some time away. A number of states will go to the polls before Bihar and the BJP will be particularly watchful about those results. If the BJP maintains its good show in states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir, then the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance will be under huge pressure to stop the saffron party in Bihar next year.

Lalu & Nitish came together to fight the common enemy but do they have the trust anymore?

The Lalu-Nitish alliance is undoubtedly an arrangement to defeat a common enemy and is based more on arithmetic than chemistry. The voters in Bihar, after seeing both the egoist leaders as chief ministers, will remember how they, particularly Nitish Kumar, took their stands conveniently, without taking into account the voters' preference. The trust deficit might be another major challenge for the two friends-cum-foes for even if they win the bypolls and the next assembly election, the question of who becomes the chief minister could be another reason of conflict, leading to wastage of another mandate.

The aim is to consolidate the anti-BJP votes

The allies already started targetting Modi in their first bypoll rally. The aim is to consolidate the anti-BJP votes as it had happened in eastern Bihar in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. But as it had happened in the western and southern parts, the BJP-LJP-RLSP alliance could be a difficult force to beat. The RJD and JD(U) will treat the bypolls as a rehearsal to test the durability of their alliance.

August 21 will be a memorable day in Bihar. There is no doubt about it.

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