Why is Bihar Chief Minister and JD (U) national president Nitish Kumar keen on a Grand Alliance in Uttar Pradesh with Congress playing the mediator? Nitish, who will not attend the Samajwadi Party foundation day rally in Lucknow on November 5, has said he will support a unified SP and does not want to please or displease different factions in the party.
Nitish is still sore that six Janta Parivar parties could not merge in 2015 ahead of the Bihar elections because of the Samajwadi Party’s recalcitrance and Ram Gopal Yadav’s statement that “merger will be like signing death warrant”. This still rankles with Nitish and he does not want to appear too enthusiastic about Mulayam Singh Yadav’s renewed bid to forge a bigger alliance.
The JD (U) wants to be sure that this is not just a ploy by the SP chief to send a message to his son and UP CM Akhilesh Yadav in midst of the internal feud in SP. While the JD (U) does not want to ignore any opportunity to forge a broader alliance in UP, it wants to adhere to its original script even if that means Mulayam Singh Yadav leading any such alliance.
Nitish wants to rope in the Congress to stitch together a Grand Alliance in UP that could see the SP, JD (U), RLD, Congress and some six small parties come together. Even though the Bihar Grand Alliance model cannot be replicated in UP as it would entail the SP and the BSP coming together, Nitish wants UP to show the way for Grand Alliance of non-BJP parties.
Nitish has aligned with the RLD in Bihar and knows the limited strength of the two parties — at best they could end up playing a spoiler for the SP by cutting into its votes – something that would suit only the BJP. Fragmented socialist parties would suit the BJP that sees itself placed well in a triangular contest despite the Congress’ claims that it will not be a pushover.
This is where Nitish sees a role for the Congress. The Bihar 2015 experiment has taught him that the presence of the Congress in the alliance helped immensely in mutual vote transfer. The Congress could play the same role in UP as per JD (U) calculations. The Congress alone is not a threat to the main parties in UP or in Bihar but the Congress in an alliance can bring about a consolidation of social forces and narrow the margin of victory or loss in a triangular contest.
A united Janta Parivar with the Congress fits in perfectly with Nitish’s national plan. If UP sees a Grand Alliance and succeeds, it can be the draft for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Nitish knows he is a fringe player by himself in UP but he also knows his worth in a non-BJP team.