IN WHAT is being seen as a signal that all may not be well in the ruling coalition in Bihar, RJD president Lalu Prasad has met his Samajwadi Party counterpart Mulayam Singh Yadav and promised to campaign for his party ahead of the UP elections next year.
The development comes even as Lalu’s Grand Alliance partner in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has begun an independent election campaign in UP. for his party, the Janata Dal (United). “We will put up our candidates in UP Assembly elections in 2017,” JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi, who belongs to UP, confirmed.
Nitish has already addressed more than half-a-dozen rallies in different parts of UP, including in state capital Lucknow, and is trying to sew up an alliance with smaller parties in the state.
Lalu’s meeting with Mulayam came soon after RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh’s endorsement of former party MP Mohammed Shahabuddin’s comments calling Nitish a “leader of circumstances”. RJD leaders, including Lalu, however, dismissed speculations about problems in the Grand Alliance in Bihar.
The Lalu-Mulayam meeting, though, is being seen as an attempt by the former Bihar chief minister to expand his political significance.
The RJD chief had said a day after Bihar election results that he would go to “every part of the country” and campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But a year later, there is little trace of Lalu at the national level.
Nitish, on the other hand, has inched ahead — besides his rallies in Uttar Pradesh, he has addressed meetings in several states, and has many more lined up.
Completing the complex triangle, the Congress, the third party in the Grand Alliance, meanwhile, is solidly behind Nitish and has stated that it wouldn’t want to destablise his government. On Tuesday, senior Bihar Congress leader and state minister Ashok Choudhary said that Lalu is “free to walk out” if he is “not comfortable” in the ruling alliance.
Referring to the RJD chief, Choudhary said, “You say there is rock-solid unity in the coalition and yet your leaders pass snide comments on the mukhiya (chief) of the coalition government…. We also do not appreciate the (follow-up) press conference held by JD(U).”
RJD leaders justified backing Mulayam but said it has no link with the stability of the Bihar alliance. Former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta, who accompanied Lalu during his meeting with Mulayam, told The Indian Express, “All parties have their own politics. Lalu-ji has said that we will deploy our full force behind Samajwadi Party in UP to check communal forces. We will not allow BJP to make gains there.”