ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bihar : More Turmoil

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Last year was not a particularly happy one for Bihar’s ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Laloo Prasad Yadav and his wife, chief minister Rabri Devi. They remained beset with allegations of corruption; law and order in the state continued to deteriorate; the chief minister’s brother Sadhu Yadav’s high-handedness caused further embarrassment; and income tax authorities raised questions about gifts received at their daughter Misa’s wedding in December 1999. Laloo Yadav, however, emerged relatively unscathed and his government remained in power. Ever since the fodder scam, his party’s poor show in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls and after the 1999 assembly elections when he actually lost power for a brief while, there has been talk of his imminent fall. Yet Laloo Yadav has survived, as much because of the opposition’s continued disarray as because of his own political cunning.

The anti-Laloo alliance in Bihar has always been a ragbag of very heterogeneous political elements. In the main it is a combination of three identities – the upper castes represented by the BJP, the intermediate castes of the Samata Party and a section of the dalits led by Ram Vilas Paswan and Sharad Yadav’s Janata Dal (U). Divisions in the opposition remain rife: Ram Vilas Paswan vs Sharad Yadav, pro- and anti-Nitish Kumar elements within the Samata Party, CPI-ML vs Samata with the former accusing Samata supporter Satish Pandey of engineering attacks on their cadres early last month. In January, a split in the Samata was barely averted, as Nitish Kumar sought to merge his unit with the JD (U). In the 243-member state assembly, the parties opposed to the RJD government, but by no means agreed among themselves, have 102 members with the BJP’s 35, Samata’s30, JD (U)’s 12, Lok Janshakti’s six, CPI-ML’s five and two members each of the CPI and CPI (M), together with 10 of the independent MLAs. The ruling coalition has 115 RJD members, 11 Congress, five BSP and two KSP and is supported by seven independents. Any serious challenge to the government would thus need a split in the RJD.

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