Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) sprung a surprise recently by deciding to join National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and enter into a seat sharing deal with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar. Paswan was part of NDA earlier. In 2002, he resigned from Vajpayee govt. after Godhra riots. Since then he has been with pseudo secular forces and part of Lalu (Rashtriya Janata Dal – Congress) combine. In 2004 this alliance swept Bihar and Paswan became Cabinet Minister. In 2009 Lalu-Paswan combine was routed and he himself lost his seat, strangely they didn’t induct Congress in the alliance and went alone. Paswan entered the Parliament through back door (Rajya Sabha).
With elections approaching Paswan again tried to stitch a RJD-LJP-Congress alliance. Lalu bolstered by Nitish’s Janata Dal (United’s) decision to break ties with BJP reportedly offered a raw deal (4) seats to Paswan because of last time’s poor performance. Paswan wasn’t happy and went crying to Sonia’s house. He pleaded her to join Nitish and dump Lalu. Congress was wary of Nitish secular credentials after all he was for 17 years with BJP. Congress in principle decided to go ahead with Lalu (though no official announcement yet). Paswan relented and left it to Sonia to bargain for his seats. In political circles in Delhi, Paswan is known to be a big chamcha of Madam.
So what happened why he chose to join BJP led alliance?
Paswan has been out of power for sometime now. He was a cabinet minister in Gowda / Gujral govt. (1996-98), Vajpayee govt. (1999-02), Manmohan Singh’s govt. (2004-09). He would have got elected this time but what was his future after that. No way Congress is coming back to power. Third Front chances are slim. JDU’s chances in Bihar are dim as per polls. Astute politician he is, he clearly saw the Modi wave. Dalit leaders like Ramdas Athawale of Republican Party of India and Udit Raj have joined NDA recently. BJP won 67 / 71 reserved seats in the recent assembly elections to 4 states (Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh). Large sections of SC / ST voters are veering towards BJP. Plus if Paswan wins he would definitely be made a minister.
The only hitch in stitching this alliance was Muslim vote bank of Paswan. He has been calling himself a secular for some time and does have a Muslim support base. He thought that he would be able to pacify his voters by taking shield of courts. Courts have cleared Modi so this issue is dead he would reason with his minority vote bank. He has punted that loss of minority votes would be compensated by upper caste and OBC votes from BJP. So a win win situation for him. Central Bureau of Investigation is inching closer towards Paswan in Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) recruitment scam. Being on the right side of govt. will help. All these factors made him to decide in favour of returning to NDA fold.
What does it mean for BJP?
This means more vote share and seats in Bihar. Paswan might win 4 out of 7 allotted to him with help of BJP. NDA will now get majority seats (>20). Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party got 6.75% vote share in last assembly elections in Bihar. This could be crucial in close contests. More than numbers it is a big symbolic victory. Paswan had left NDA after Godhra riots. A prominent secular image leader joining NDA strengthens BJP and exposes pseudo secularism. Modi’s acceptability increases and more people expected to join bandwagon. It shows that Modi too can attract allies like Vajpayee. Dents opposition branding of Modi and BJP as communal. Might move fence sitters like AGP, DMK, DMDK, TDP, BJD towards BJP. Modi’s untouchable tag might end before elections. Power is a strong glue which attracts people and binds them together.
This alliance benefits Paswan more than BJP in terms of numbers more so in light of Modi wave witnessed in the state (Modi has highest popularity as PM in the state with 71% voters wanting to see him as Prime Minister). Paswan’s party reduced to nil seats in Lok Sabha in 2009 and only 3 seats in assembly elections in 2010. Assumption that he still holds 6.75% vote share might not hold true. But as I said earlier it is a symbolic victory…
BJP though has to be careful. Fight against corrupt Congress can’t be taken up with help of corrupt people. Then what is the difference between Congress and BJP, a point played well by Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. A lot of people are jumping to Modi bandwagon, they are mere opportunist who are just moving where the wind is blowing. They should be admitted with care. Blindly they should not be offered tickets. They don’t become holy cows after joining BJP. Party news to tread with caution……