The year when arch rivals Lalu and Nitish buried their hatchet

Two decade old differences were put aside to check saffron rise

The year when arch rivals Lalu and Nitish buried their hatchet

The year 2014 will go down into the annals of Bihar’s history for three significant political developments in the state which no political pundit worth his salt had predicted.

The impromptu decision by Nitish Kumar to quit as chief minister on the very next day of Lok Sabha election result; the underdog in his Cabinet Jitan Ram Manjhi as the next Chief Minister of Bihar; and the reunification of Lalu-Nitish after two decades.

But first thing first: Taking his antipathy towards the BJP leader Narendra Modi to an irreconcilable level, Nitish this year went ahead with his plan to contest the Lok Sabha elections without joining hands with any major political outfit. This was the beginning of crumbling of the citadel which the JD (U) strongman had built assiduously over the years. But with an inflated ego and wrong advice from his close aides, Nitish could not see the writing on the wall.

Eventually, when Lok Sabha election result started trickling in, Nitish realised he had been decimated in the state which  had given him a brute 4/5th majority (more than 200 seats in a 243-member Assembly),  when he was in alliance with the BJP, a couple of years ago.

Out of 40 Lok Sabha seats, his regional outfit could win only two seats, while the BJP-led alliance romped home in 31 constituencies. Despite his much-publicised opposition towards Narendra Modi, his Gujarat counterpart was headed for a landslide and, therefore, going to hold the country’s top executive post. Though embarrassed over his wrong political calculations, Nitish never admitted it in public or private. But once it became clear that Modi was now unstoppable, he rushed to the Raj Bhawan and submitted his resignation.

All hell broke loose within the ruling Janata Dal (United), which could not think of life after Nitish. Days of political drama continued till Nitish convinced everyone that he was going to give Bihar its first Mahadalit chief minister in the form of Jitan Ram Manjhi.

A Mahadalit leader from Mushar community (the poorest among Dalits), Manjhi was a non-controversial and pliable leader, whom Nitish thought would become the ‘Manmohan Singh of Bihar’ and could serve as the de jure chief minister  as long as Nitish was on self-imposed exile.

But once in the saddle, the man (Manjhi) tried to become larger than his boots and ran into controversy every fortnight till he was pulled up by the party top brass and asked to refrain from creating new row. This was followed by the mother of all alliances when arch rivals— Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar— decided to bury the hatchet and check the rise of Modi-led BJP in the state which they had been ruling since March 1990.

 The decision to sink their two decade old differences could not sink in among the party cadres until the byelections in Bihar in August this year. The bypoll results stopped BJP in its tracks, which eventually convinced the party workers of RJD and the JD (U) that if the two regional satraps could join hands, the BJP’s rise could be arrested.

The Jharkhand poll result (which saw the grand alliance failing miserably in the neighbouring state), has, however, put a question mark again on whether this marriage of convenience ever work.

Only the much-awaited 2015 Assembly election in Bihar can   answer this.

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