Games politicians play

Politics makes for strange bedfellows. That is more so in India where politicians change colours like chameleons.

Squabbling splinter groups of the erstwhile Janata Dal have decided to come on a common platform in a bid to stay relevant in the wake of the dramatic resurgence of the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, under the leadership of Narendra Modi.  Six parties —  the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Janata Dal(United) of Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav,  the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Janata Dal(Secular) of Deve Gowda, the Indian National Lok Dal of Om Prakash Choutala, Samajwadi Janata Party of Chandrasekhar — merged into a single entity tentatively named the Samajwadi Janata Dal. These groups did not come together out of nostalgia but out of sheer compulsion to stay afloat in the face of a serious threat to their existence.

Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav were not seeing eye to eye not long ago. They were sworn enemies trading insults at each other. But they were brought to their senses when the BJP swept Bihar state in the 2014 general elections by winning all but few seats.

Now with the state elections round the corner, the Janata parties have no choice but to bury the hatchet. This is also good opportunity for Mulayam Singh Yadav who has long been nursing prime ministerial ambitions as the new entity gives him the necessary political heft to eye the top job in the country.

But will this new party be a viable alternative to the BJP at he national level?  It is doubtful given the past experience with such formations under Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V. P. Singh, Chandrasekher, Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral. It has a tendency to disintegrate at the earliest opportunity given the inflated egos of its leaders.

This rag-a-tag party cannot fancy to be a national alternative on its own given the fact it has influence only in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and some pockets of Karnataka. It should learnto work with the Congress to make a difference at the national level.

Two of its leaders Lalu Prasad Yadav and Om Prakash Choutala are convicted criminals out on bail. And it is a jungle raj in Uttar Pradesh under Akhilesh Yadav. So on questions of probity in public life and governance, there is not much to expect from this opportunist cabal.

It is good that the sophisticated and suave Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal steered clear of this new political animal whose DNA his party shares by virtue of being part of the erstwhile Janata Dal under the leadership of V. P. Singh.

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