Nitish Kumar, who worked on an important election this week with Lalu Prasad Yadav, has hinted that a bigger partnership could be evolving between them in Bihar, which will vote for its next government in 2015.
“We have spent the last eight years proving that Bihar can be governed. Now that the BJP is playing dirty politics, whatever kind of alliances we need, we will take steps for that,” said Mr Kumar, who resigned as Bihar Chief Minister last month after his party’s abysmal performance in the national election.
Mr Kumar’s party, the Janata Dal United or JDU, won just two of Bihar’s 40 parliamentary seats. Mr Yadav, who allied with the Congress, scored four. Accepting responsibility for the debacle, Mr Kumar chose his party’s Jitan Ram Manjhi to replace him in office. Mr Yadav’s party helped win a trust vote for the new chief minister.
Another major exercise in political cooperation played out this week. With Mr Kumar’s party riddled with dissent, Mr Yadav’s party voted for two JDU candidates, helping them get elected to the Rajya Sabha.
Both leaders have recently said their priority is to keep the BJP – which they describe as a communally divisive party – out of power in the state.
Months before the national election, Mr Kumar ended his party’s 17-year alliance with the BJP to protest against its decision to place its campaign in the hands of Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister. The choice proved to be spectacularly beneficial; the result of the election, which gave the BJP the strongest result for a party in 30 years, was especially humiliating for Mr Kumar, who had clocked several public derisions of Mr Modi as a polarizing leader mistrusted by Muslims on account of the riots in Gujarat in 2002, in which more than a 1000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.
A Supreme Court inquiry has cleared Mr Modi, who was then serving his first term as Gujarat chief minister, of any wrong doing.
Mr Kumar and Mr Yadav were both prominent young leaders of the Janata Party through the 70s. In 1997, Mr Yadav formed his own RJD. Mr Kumar helped form the JDU in 2003.
In 2005, Mr Yadav’s wife, Rabri Devi, was chief minister of Bihar – he had been forced to resign over corruption charges. Mr Kumar’s alliance with the BJP evicted the Lalu-Rabri government; in 2010, Mr Kumar was re-elected chief minister for a second term.