Rise of Janata parivar

It is a sense of realism and hope of beating a common enemy that has led six parties of the erstwhile Janata parivar to form a new political party. Parties have to adapt themselves to new situations when politics is in a flux. The BJP, against whom the parties are uniting now, had itself forsaken its identity to join the Janata Party, to fight the Congress in 1977. The political pole has shifted now, with the BJP holding one end up and others aligning themselves in opposition to it. There have been mergers and  coalitions of parties in the past decades at state and national levels in response to the political need of the time. The Samajwadi Party, the JD(U), the RJD, the JD(S), the INLD and the SJP have found it right to unite rather than form a coalition obviously because their commitment to face the common challenge is greater than their allegiance to separate identities.

The new party will be the ruling party in two major states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where it will be dominant. It will have a sizeable presence in Haryana and Karnataka. It is strong enough to make an impact in parliament, with 15 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 30 MPs in the Rajya Sabha. The immediate test of its potency will be the assembly elections in Bihar to be held later this year. UP will face assembly elections in 2017. The BJP, which won 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in the last general elections, had expected an easy ride to power in the state. But a combination of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Prasad’s RJD will be a formidable electoral force there. This was demonstrated when they won six of the 10 seats where Assembly by-elections were held in August last year. The two parties have their respective political support bases which, when pooled together, have a numerical superiority over the BJP. These constituencies are defined largely in terms of caste, but even national parties have strong caste complexions in these states.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the largest party, will be the leader of the new party. It has strong and experienced leaders like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav and H D Deve Gowda. But the Janata parivar has a fractious past. The leaders will have to work together if the party has to make an impact. Equally importantly, the lower level leaders and cadres will have to bond together, especially in Bihar. The party also has to present a positive agenda and programme to the people.

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