Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, has finally done what he was reluctant to do all of last week. He has endorsed Nitish Kumar, his former rival and head of Janata Dal (United), as the next chief ministerial candidate of the newly formed Janta Party.
The JD(U), RJD, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Indian National Lok Dal and the Samajwadi Janata Party merged to form the Janata Party in April 2015, in order to gain strength in parliament. And for a larger purpose: taking on the Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar, where Narendra Modi had swept the polls last year.
Lalu is not one to hide his feelings, and he expressed them, albeit in a slightly diplomatic way. "I want to assure the secular forces and the people of India that in this battle of Bihar, I am ready to gulp everything. Hum har tarah ka zehar peene ko taiyar hain (I am ready to drink all varieties of poison)," Lalu said at a news conference after he nominated Kumar for the CM post.
"I am determined to crush the hood of this snake, this cobra of communalism," he asserted, referring to BJP, which is hoping to wrest power from regional parties that have ruled Bihar for over two decades.
There was a flurry of activity with Kumar meeting Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav over the weekend. Singh is reported to have convinced Lalu, a former CM, to support Kumar, who has had an image of not being corrupt, before and during his tenure as chief minister. Bihar state elections are slated for October 2015.
"I am very happy about the unity of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar. Kumar will be the chief ministerial candidate for Bihar. Laluji has proposed his name and said he will campaign," Yadav said. "There are no differences and we will not allow any differences to crop up."
The BJP reacted, saying that the alliance was a desperate attempt to stay in power. "Their coming together has scared the people of Bihar once again, who after being scared of the 'Jungle Raj' under Lalu Prasad had voted for Nitish Kumar earlier," BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said. "They are also clinging on to each other like a drowning man clutches to a twig. They will not be able to defeat a rising BJP in the state," he added.
(With agency inputs)