Janata divided family: Splitting headache that won’t go

Former Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav has rebelled against his party chief Nitish Kumar for leaving the grand alliance in Bihar to join hands with the BJP. Indian Express summarises the journey of India’s socialist leaders who are probably best known for going their separate ways.

Written by Anand Mishra | Updated: August 11, 2017 9:03 am
Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, JD(U), Grand Alliance (From left) Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, the JD (S)’s H D Deve Gowda, JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, and JD (U) chief Nitish Kumar at a meeting in New Delhi in November 2014. If Sharad splits from Nitish, each of these former Janata Parivar colleagues will have his own party. (Express Photo/Anil Sharma/Archive)

Former JD(U) president Sharad Yadav’s revolt against his party chief Nitish Kumar’s decision to switch to a political alliance with the BJP adds the latest chapter to the history of fragmentation of the Janata Parivar, whose members are often seen as enthusiastic practitioners of the dictum, “Socialists come together only to part ways; they part ways only to come together”. While Indian socialist leaders have sought to explain every union and split in terms of ideology, most of these manoeuvres can, in fact, be read in the context of personal egos and power politics among them.

So, while Lalu Prasad is now egging Sharad Yadav on against Nitish, the last major split in the Janata Parivar took place in 1997, when Lalu and Sharad clashed over the presidentship of the erstwhile Janata Dal. Lalu broke away with the Bihar unit and formed the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which he and his family have now led for 20 years. Earlier, in 1994, it was Nitish who rebelled against Lalu’s control of the Janata Dal in Bihar. He allied with George Fernandes to form the Samata Party, which became a partner in the coalition led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. After Lalu broke away, the Janata Dal disintegrated further — first with the Odisha unit charting its own course as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) under Naveen Patnaik in 1997, and the Karnataka unit under H D Deve Gowda forming the JD (Secular) in 1999. Sharad’s Janata Dal was left with J H Patel of the Karnataka unit, who backed the Vajpayee-led NDA. Sharad ultimately made peace with Fernandes’s and Nitish’s Samata Party to form the JD (United).

The JD, which was in power from 1996-98, had suddenly disintegrated into the RJD, BJD, JD (S) and JD (U). In each of these splits, egos of individual leaders and their desire to control regional fiefdoms played the major role.

The Earlier Janata

Erstwhile Janata Dal leaders (from left) R K Hegde, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, S R Bommai, H D Deve Gowda, Ram Vilas Paswan, S Jaipal Reddy, Sharad Yadav. Archive

The Janata Dal that disintegrated in the late 90s had come into shape a decade earlier when scattered factions of the Janata Party, which had ousted Indira Gandhi from power after the Emergency in 1977, came together.

Objecting to the dual membership of the RSS and Janata Party of leaders such as Vajpayee and L K Advani, the socialists walked out and formed the Janata Party (Secular) led by Charan Singh. This party, which also had stalwarts like Madhu Limaye, Raj Narain, Karpoori Thakur, Biju Patnaik and Fernandes, went on to become the Lok Dal. Raj Narain parted ways briefly, but returned to join Charan Singh. But the Lok Dal faced a major crisis soon afterward. Charan Singh expelled Thakur, Patnaik, Limaye, Fernandes, Devi Lal and Kumbharam Arya, and the party split into Lok Dal (Charan) and Lok Dal (Karpoori) in 1982. Current JD (U) leaders Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi were with the Lok Dal (Karpoori).

Limaye quit politics, and Patnaik and Fernandes joined the Chandra Shekhar faction of the Janata Party. On the other hand, ahead of the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, Devi Lal (from Haryana) and Karpoori Thakur (from Bihar) joined hands with Charan Singh (from UP) and Congress rebel H N Bahuguna to form the Dalit Mazdoor Kisan Party (DMKP). The DMKP was later renamed, Lok Dal. But this new Lok Dal too did not last. With Charan Singh incapacitated due to poor health, his son Ajit Singh came to head the Lok Dal (Ajit), while Bahuguna formed the Lok Dal (Bahuguna) with the rest of the flock.

The BJP and Lok Dal (Bahuguna) dealt a major blow to Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress by winning 85 out of 90 seats in the 1987 Haryana Assembly elections. Devi Lal became Chief Minister. With the demise of Bahuguna, the reins of the Lok Dal (B) passed to Devi Lal, along with Mulayam Singh Yadav (in UP) and Karpoori Thakur (in Bihar). After V P Singh emerged as a national figure on the back of his anti-graft campaign against Rajiv and the Congress, the Janata Party of Chandra Shekhar and Lok Dal of Devi Lal joined hands with Singh to form the Janata Dal on October 11, 1988. They stormed to power the following year.

The next crisis came as Chandra Shekhar walked away from the JD with Mulayam (in UP) to form the Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP) ahead of the 1991 elections. But they soon parted ways — Mulayam formed the Samajwadi Party in 1992, and Chandra Shekhar was left to be the only leader of his party. Mulayam’s exit, and his forming the government in UP without help from national leaders of the Janata Parivar, was followed by a trend of regional socialist strongmen establishing themselves in their states — over time, Janata disintegrated into Samata, RJD and JD (U) in Bihar, JD (S) in Karnataka, Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana, and BJD in Odisha.

The Latest Attempt

Like in 1977 and 1988, a fresh attempt was made to bring socialists together as a national alternative after the BJP led by Narendra Modi stormed to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With the Congress floundering, Nitish took the initiative to approach Mulayam, Deve Gowda, Lalu and the Chautalas.

On April 15, 2015, six splinter groups of the erstwhile JD — JD (U), RJD, SP, JD (Secular), INLD and Kamal Morarka’s Samajwadi Janata Party — announced their intention to merge, and set up a six-member committee to decide on issues like the name, flag and election symbol of the new party. They even said Mulayam would be their chief. The entire effort, however, fizzled out ahead of the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, when the SP decided to contest against the Lalu-Nitish-Congress alliance. After the mahagathbandhan won and Nitish became Chief Minister, his motivation to mobilise other socialists evaporated.

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  1. S
    Aug 13, 2017 at 7:16 pm
    Nitash ko laloo kay beta ka uberna pasand nai thai
    1. M
      mahendra vihtlani
      Aug 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm
      Sharad is planing to be nominee P > M < in next election.
      1. G
        Aug 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm
        Socialism is a fraud and hence not tenable alternative. the opportunistic and nepotistic alliance to further personal wealth, promote corruption. No erstwhile component of this unholy alliance give any weight-age to corrupt practices by its leader at the cost of common man. All leaders as farmers thrive make 100's of crore tax free income from farm, however the common farmer commits suicide, and bank loan waivers is pockted by these feudal lords. God save the country.
        1. M
          M UMASHANKAR
          Aug 11, 2017 at 12:30 pm
          At the first instance what was the need for Nitesh Kumar to form Mahabandhan with RJD, if it is a corrupt party. In the election people gave JDU 71 seats and RJD 80 seats. The verdict is for ruling the state by RJD, JDU and congress. He has ditched the people of Bihar, and atleast the Bihar CM should have waited till next elections. This is opportunistic politics by Nitesh Kumar.
          1. B
            Aug 11, 2017 at 11:32 am
            There is no principles or human values except to get power at any cost. We have dark future with young becoming tool of hatred and division.
            1. T
              Aug 11, 2017 at 10:04 am
              in commoners parlance Janata means sub standard
              1. B
                Aug 11, 2017 at 8:53 am
                There is a fight between Ideology Practical gain always. In this fight always Practical gain wins over the weak ideology, In India, opportunist comes to the surface very regularly. Opportunist is not bad if intention is good ,but unfortunately the opportunist we see so far are for their narrow self gain ,not for the gain of the society in large. In India ,at the moment ,no personality is there to support the good value overcome the existing demonic culture. Modi was the last hope but with recent feeling which developed within us reveals that he is not strong enough to overcome this demon of self gain. What we see in modi now ,is to win the election by hook or crook forgetting the ideal value of our old culture. Surrender yourself to the powerful group if you can not win over them the policy modi follows in his life. India needs a radical change coming out of existing set up. A strong leader is required . That is the need of time. Existing Leaders are no use.
                1. S
                  Aug 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm
                  Dear Balaji, You are right while you say Modi is our last hope. But sadly there is political compulsions and he has compromised his position by allowing his party in Bihar with British Kumar's JDU for certain political gains. The chota Modi in Bihar has an unusual fascination for Nitish Kumar. The RJD corruption drama was quickly unfolding and Nitish was in great trouble. BJP should have waited for some more time to put Nitish to the dog house instead of bailing him out like this. But what I feel motivated Narendrabhai is the need to consolidate political forces behind bjp which is essential for dealing with bjps crucial political agenda on article 370 and uniform civil code. We expect fireworks on these issues are going to come up very soon.
                  1. S
                    Aug 13, 2017 at 12:37 pm
                    Dear Balaji The return of Nitish to NDA is a political game. Lalu wanted to rule Bihar through remote control and as long as he was in charge of Bihar BJP would have faced problem in implementation of its crucial political agenda on Ram Mandir, uniform civil code and article 370. By driving Communists out of political power structure at the centre and destroying the Mahagathbandhan that is fighting for last gasp Modi has prepared a platform for taking this crucial plunge. We will see action very shortly. Don't mind Bihar for the time being.
                  2. T
                    T P
                    Aug 11, 2017 at 8:28 am
                    "Socialists suffer from self destructive instinct". This was said by Shri Arun Shourie few decades ago and that is true even today and will remain so in time to come.
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