The Collapse of Mahagathbandhan
On July 26, 2017 Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar submitted his resignation to Governor K.N. Tripathi, putting an end to the month long parleys in the Bihar and New Delhi political circle. Talking to reporters after submitting his resignation to Governor, Nitish Kumar said, “In the circumstances that prevail in Bihar, it became difficult to run the grand alliance government.”
In a twisting turn of events, Nitish Kumar sworn-in as Chief Minister of Bihar in alliance with BJP within 24-hours of his resignation. The BJP chose to support JD (U) government formation after it said it did not favour mid-term polls. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) which has 71 seats and BJP’s 53 seats were comfortable enough to sail through the simple majority of 122 seats.
What Went Wrong?
On July 7, CBI had raided multiple locations belonging to RJD Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family members. The FIR filed by CBI named Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, Bihar’s deputy Chief Minister and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s younger son as an accused. Ever since the CBI raid, Tejashwi came under pressure to quit his post and face the trail. Nitish Kumar, who was voted on corruption-free developmental agenda, pressed for Tejashwi’s resignation. This led to war of words ensued the alliance partners JD(U) and RJD throughout July denying any chance of rapprochement. In the height events, Nitish quits his CM post on July 26 thereby dismantling the illustrious grand alliance “Mahagathbandhan” which he had formed in alliance with RJD and Congress during 2015 state elections.
Marriage of Convenience?
Nitish Kumar was instrumental in forming the Mahagathbandhan with RJD and congress for the 2015 assembly election. He was portrayed as a national hero for bringing together an unlikely alliance. However, it is believed that Nitish was upset ever since the Bihar poll results although his alliance won with a resounding majority. The alliance partner RJD secured 80 seats and left behind JD (U) with 71 seats in an equally contested election. Although Lalu Prasad Yadav accepted Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister in accordance with pre-poll understanding, Lalu claimed his pound of flesh by appointing his son, Tejaswi Prasad Yadav, as deputy Chief Minister and elder son, Tej Pratap Yadav, as health minister and claiming 12 other ministerial berths for his party.
The incongruous alliance between JD (U) and RJD witnessed early signs of trouble in Jan 2015 when RJD national vice president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh blamed Nitish Kumar for Law order lapses in the state. It further intensified when RJD’s mafia don Shahabuddin termed Nitish Kumar as a “Chief Minister of circumstances”. On his part, Nitish Kumar commended the PM Narendra Modi on demonetisation exercise and the surgical strike on Pakistan much to the chagrin of the alliance partners. The winds of change were even more clear to the alliance partners when Nitish Kumar choose to support the NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind against the opposition’s choice of Meira Kumar.
The exit of Nitish Kumar not only collapsed the grand alliance but also destroyed the hope of creating a united opposition to NDA-led alliance in 2019 general elections. The decision had upset most of the secular parties like Congress, left parties, NCP, DMK and Trinamol congress who have intended to form a secular opposition. By choosing to ally with BJP, Nitish Kumar has defeated the electorate of Bihar who have chosen him for his secular and anti-corruption credentials. The BJP on its part has won Bihar even without contesting an election. The onus now greatly lies on the RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was working on a secular opposition against the NDA to forge a formidable alliance of secular parties before 2019 elections. Given the reluctance of congress leadership and the disorientation of opposition parties , any alliance of multiple parties is highly unlikely at this juncture.