AFTER KEEPING up the suspense for months on his next move ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh Saturday indicated his willingness for an alliance with the JD(U) and other like-minded parties.
Singh praised the “good governance” of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar and exhorted all parties, groups and individuals believing in the socialist ideology of Ram Manohar Lohia and farmer leader Chaudhary Charan Singh to come together. RLD also invited Nitish to Baraut area of Jat-dominated Baghpat district as chief guest to unveil the statue of Charan Singh, Ajit Singh’s father and former PM, on October 4.
Welcoming Singh’s statement, Nitish Kumar, who is also the JD(U) national president, said the programmes and principles of RLD and his party are inspired by the ideology and thoughts of Lohia and Charan Singh and hoped that the two parties will remain together. Nitish’s statement, however, is being seen as a little guarded in the light of RLD’s earlier flip-flops. While the JD(U) has been trying to stitch up an alliance with the RLD and form a common front called the Jan Vikas Party (JVP), and rope in the Congress as well, Ajit Singh’s party opened channels of discussion with other parties, including the BJP and the SP. But following Saturday’s statements by Singh and Nitish Kumar, a JD(U) leader said the uncertainty over the alliance appears to be over for now. If the Congress joins hands, this leader said, an “effective alternative” can be formed in UP.
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Noting that UP was the janmabhoomi and karmabhoomi —- place of birth and work — of both Lohia and Charan Singh, the RLD chief said, “It is the need of the hour that parties and groups of individuals who believe in the leadership and policies of Chaudhary-saheb and Lohia-ji should set aside personal differences and come on one platform.”
Pointing out that both Nitish and JD(U)’s former president Sharad Yadav have been disciples of the late farmers’ leader, Singh, a former Union minister, compared the “good governance” of Bihar under Nitish Kumar with Charan Singh’s “sushashan days” and “appealed to parties and groups having the same ideology” to “take the vow to work together in this hour of crisis so that an effective platform is available in the upcoming polls to ensure that farmers, backwards and minorities get their rights.” Hours after Singh’s statement, Nitish issued a separate statement saying, “The JD(U) welcomes the intent of the statement…. Our party is committed to the principles enunciated by Dr Lohia and Chaudhary Charan Singh, whose impact and influence are being carried out by the Bihar government for the welfare of farmers, Dalits and the underprivileged sections.”
Hinting at the Assembly polls in UP next year, Kumar said, “We have worked for a long time under the banner of Lok Dal and Janata Dal..And ideologically also we are the closest to your party. We believe that we will remain together in taking forward all initiatives in this regard including the unity of parties, common platform and electoral understanding”.
A senior JD(U) said the alliance can “do well” in UP as Nitish can help consolidate votes of people from his Kurmi caste, who are expected to play a key role in nearly 60 constituencies, while Ajit Singh is the “tallest Jat leader” who can tilt the balance in more than 100 seats, especially in western UP.
The party believes that with Congress having already projected Sheila Dikshit as its CM face, Brahmins and Muslims can also come to the alliance if they join hands. Incidentally, JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi said his party “will have no problem” if Ajit Singh’s Jayant is projected as combine’s face in the polls. “We are uniting to defeat BJP,” Tyagi said, while confirming that Nitish will unveil the Charan Singh’s statue in Baraut area.
The RLD chief had kept the JD(U) on tenterhooks for quite some months after initial moves of their coming together and had been giving conflicting signals about his next course of action.
Since December last year, JD(U) and RLD have been exploring the possibility of an umbrella alliance with Congress and some smaller parties in UP for the 2017 polls. Ajit Singh had held meetings Nitish and Sharad Yadav in December last year and January this year during which they discussed the broad contours of a larger coalition against the BJP at a time when both SP and BSP, the two major parties in UP, had ruled out forging any alliance.
Peace Party chief Ayub Ansari had also met Nitish and Tyagi. Peace Party has presence in Eastern UP, especially in areas around Gorakhpur. However, the RLD chief later opened channels of communication with BJP and SP but none fructified. BJP recently ruled out any alliance with RLD.
While JD(U) lacks a cadre base in UP and can hope to gain from alliance with regional parties like RLD and Peace Party, Nitish’s persona could help these parties in consolidating their existing vote base.
Janata Dal had 22 MPs in UP in 1991, when Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chandra Shekhar parted ways with V P Singh and formed Samajwadi Janata Party. Since then Janata Dal and later JD(U) have been on decline there. In 1996, the party, then headed by Sharad Yadav, had six MLAs, which came down to two in the 2002 Assembly polls. With Lalmani verma in Lucknow