Almost two decades after the then Janata Dal split in the 1990s, leaders of six parties of the “Janata Parivar” came together on Wednesday to form a single outfit headed by Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav.
“We have unanimously decided to merge our parties,” JD(U) president Sharad Yadav announced after a meeting at Mulayam’s residence, which was also attended by former prime minister and JD(S) president H D Deve Gowda, Bihar Chief Minister and senior JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, Leader of Opposition in the Haryana Assembly Abhay Chautala (INLD) and Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP) leader Kamal Morarka.
“We will announce everything shortly, including the name, symbol, flag, policies and structure of the party,” said Sharad Yadav. He said a committee comprising presidents of the constituent parties would address these issues — so it would include Om Prakash Chautala, not Abhay Chautala. SP leader in the Rajya Sabha Ram Gopal Yadav will also be a member of the panel.
However, sources said the party would be named the “Samajwadi Janata Dal”, with the SP’s cycle as its symbol. They said the party flag would be two-thirds red (for its long association with socialists) and one-third green.
According to sources, the party leaders want to hold wider consultations before putting in place an organisational structure. One thumb rule that they have agreed upon is that the new outfit would be a federal party, ensuring a free hand to state satraps in their areas. The national body and office-bearers would, therefore, only endorse the decisions of the state leaders.
This means that Mulayam would call the shots in Uttar Pradesh, Deve Gowda in Karnataka and Chautala in Haryana. The real challenge would be Bihar, where Nitish and Lalu are evenly balanced. They would have to come to an understanding vis-a-vis the state organisation, and work out an arrangement for sharing assembly seats and power. Facing a resurgent BJP in Bihar, they have a difficult task ahead of the state polls later this year.
Interestingly, it is the SP camp where a sense of insecurity among top leaders is more discernible. In fact, the merger plan was delayed only because of opposition from within Mulayam’s family, who, according to sources, fear loss of clout in the new outfit. For instance, only one person from the SP would be made a national general secretary.
Keeping this in mind, the other constituents of the new party are learnt to have deliberately offered the leadership to Mulayam. Their strategy has paid off.
“We have united and we assure people that this will be a strong bond… We will respect the feelings of people… It is a historic decision,” said Mulayam, who may be looking at prime ministerial prospects for himself in 2019. “Whenever we have united, we have come to power,” he said, alluding to the Janata Party victory in 1977, the Janata Dal win in 1989 and the formation of the Third Front and United Front governments between 1996 and 1998. He also vowed to “diminish the arrogance of this government (headed by Narendra Modi).”
“There are no ego issues among any of our members… Our policy is simple — ghar wapsi of BJP,” said Lalu. “The Bihar elections will see the beginning of the end of BJP across the country… They have captured power through cheating… They have been exposed and we will destroy them in Delhi and the rest of the country.”