Janata Dal reunification
Will it last and succeed?
In the current despairing scenario for the anti-fascist forces any news of rallying of secular socialist forces could be good news and insofar as that the regrouping of the offshoots of one-time Janata Dal does kindle some hope of the emergence of a political alternative to the right wing communal majoritarian BJP rule led by an aggressive, unapologetic Sanghi Prime Minister Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi.
At the moment India is facing a serious and real threat of the nation returning to a single party, right wing majoritarian rule from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Gujarat to West Bengal. With the Congress appearing too weak and irresolute to launch a frontal attack on the BJP, the emerging scenario for 2017 is scary and dreadful.
In such a political climate the coming together of Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav, H D Deve Gowda and Om Prakash Chautala does bring some hope no doubt, but with a lot of scepticism and disbelief.
There is no doubt a common thread which runs through these parties generally representing rural subaltern castes. They all trace their roots to the struggle of Ram Manohar Lohia and later Chaudhary Charan Singh against the urban Brahmanical order perpetuated by the Congress party right upto the 1980s. But that was a good three decades and more removed.
In 1990 which is again quarter of a century ago, Vishwanath Pratap Singh created a new awakening and inspiration among the rural subalterns through a stroke of pen when as the Prime Minister of India he accepted the Mandal Commission report, causing an uproar of howls and protests, beating of breasts and self-immolation by the Aryavrats. V P Singh had to quit in the wake of Mandal agitation but he paved the way for ushering in the era of OBC and Dalit governments in UP and Bihar, the heart of India. Lalu, Mulayam, Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Mayawati and even Deve Gowda all reaped the harvest of the seeds sown by V P Singh.
Mandal was a great revolutionary effort to challenge the supremacy of the Brahmanical forces in the country. These OBC/Dalit leaders benefitted from a momentary desperate decision of a Prime Minister driven to the wall. They neither possessed nor attempted to acquire in this quarter century, a larger perspective and a long term vision of how to strengthen and spread the rule of the subalterns across the country. They failed to consolidate and build upon what they got through a fluke. They fought among themselves in a battle of one upmanship, splintering into many offshoots of the Janata Dal. So we have today two Lok Dals, one by the scions of Charan Singh and the other by the descendants of Chaudhary Devi Lal. Then there are four Janata Dals and two Samajwadi Parties, all splintered from the Janata Dal. Mandal gave hope of empowerment to the OBCs and Dalits and others including the Muslims, kept out of power structure for decades. But slowly it degenerated into a Yadav rule or a Kurmi rule or a Jatav rule. And eventually Mulayam and Lalu reduced it to promoting only their family members disenchanting the core of their constituency.
The other problem is their elephant size egos. Janata Dal splintered into all these factions only because of incompatibility between these leaders and their consistent bid to undercut each other and even their loyal lieutenants. One can blame Ram Vilas Paswan’s ambition for his breakup with Lalu Prasad on the eve of the last general elections. But Lalu’s inability to accommodate Ram Kirpal Yadav just showed how he put family above everything else.
Similarly Mulayam jettisoned Beni Prasad Verma, one time his closest confidant, who lamented in the last Lok Sabha that were it not for Mulayam’s betrayal, he would have never left the Samajwadi Party and joined the Congress. Similarly, Mayawati left by the wayside committed Bahujan leaders like Sudhir Goel who backed her when she was still struggling. But once in power, she opted for Satish Chandra Mishra instead. Deve Gowda is secular in Delhi but has no qualms doing deal with the BJP in Bangalore. Same is true of Nitish or Mayawati.
All these things have cumulatively brought down the stock of these first generation Mandal leaders. Sure enough there was tremendous mobilization and communalisation by the Sangh and its other Aryavrat adjuncts to grab power in May, 2014. But that merely added to the woes of these leaders. Seeing the threat of being swamped by the saffron wave they are making some effort to join forces. They also seem to settle upon Mulayam as their leader. But can they subsume their egos for long? Can for instance Lalu allow Nitish to become the chief minister of Bihar and vice versa, will Nitish be magnanimous enough to publicly acknowledge that Lalu is greater leader with larger following?
There are many imponderables. But most of all, are they capable of reinventing themselves and presenting something fresh to the new aspirational voter to attract it back to their fold? That is what leads to a lot of scepticisim even among hard core Mandal supporters.