NEW DELHI :
Four months ahead of the assembly elections in Bihar, six political parties, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress, have come together to form an anti-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) front. In the first coordination meeting, senior leaders of the six political parties decided to challenge the development agenda under Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who is currently serving his third term.
With over 3 million migrant labourers returning to the state in the last two months, the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front has decided to take up the issue in the upcoming assembly elections which is expected to take place in October-November this year. The consolidation of the opposition parties has also taken place in the backdrop of RJD’s top leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh quitting on Tuesday and five out of its eight legislative council members jumping ship to incumbent Janata Dal (United).
On Wednesday, leaders of all six opposition parties held a virtual meeting, which senior leaders of Congress and RJD point out was the first such in recent times. Leaders in know of developments, said that several such meetings are being planned to kick start the election campaign including a possible one in the next fortnight.
Apart from senior leaders of Congress and RJD, the meeting was attended by smaller parties represented by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi who heads Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha who heads Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Mukesh Sahni who is chief of Vikas-sheel Insaan Party (VIP) among others.
"Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had lost the assembly elections and yet it is in power in Bihar. The mandate of the people was not for NDA or BJP so the assembly elections are crucial because we want to save democracy and democratic functioning in Bihar. A party which lost the election is in power through undemocratic means," said Manoj Jha, senior leader of RJD and parliamentarian who was part of the meeting.
Jha categorically stated that there was no internal rivalry in RJD and the party was not divided. He also said that the first coordination meeting was to take the decision that all political parties, both national and regional, will contest the election together against the BJP-NDA combine.
"This meeting was just the first one where we decided to defeat NDA together. There was no discussion over seat distribution or anything. The meeting was to resolve that BJP-NDA have come to power through undemocratic means. And there is a deliberate misinformation campaign being carried out that all is not well in opposition and RJD which is not true," Jha added.
While leaders who attended the meeting on Wednesday say that it was an attempt at ‘showcasing virtual unity’, they add that all is not well within the alliance and for some of the disgruntled political stakeholders, the meeting was also seen as conflict resolution. There are several key issues which pose a challenge to the coming together of the non-NDA parties two of which are – amicable seat sharing and the leadership conundrum.
“This is more like a coordination committee meeting. Everyone felt that we were doing poorly on the optics front and we need to send a message that we are in this together. However, there are cracks within the alliance which leaders think need to be resolved at the earliest. Some of the leaders in the fold sing their own tune in public and so we are expecting that meetings like these will continue to happen," a senior leader of one the smaller parties which attended the meeting on Wednesday said requesting anonymity.
Shaktisinh Gohil, Congress’ incharge of Bihar wrote on Twitter on late Wednesday evening that the meeting was called to discuss ‘issues and concerns’ related to Bihar elections and stakeholders have assured solidarity with each other in taking on the Kumar led government.