Sharad Yadav faces a difficult choice to stay or leave JD(U)
Politics in India is so uncertain these days that it is almost impossible to make even intelligent guesstimates. A classic case in point is of the veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav whose friends and even foes are currently busy in guessing games over his next move that may or may not boost the prospects of the much needed opposition unity that received a serious jolt last week from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s quick move to join hands with the BJP.
Going by present indications and past record, what course Yadav is going to take in coming days is not easy to predict but there is undoubtedly a rift of serious difference of opinion between him and Janata Dal (U) supremo Nitish Kumar then he should be hitting the road.
The former JD (U) president had called Kumar’s decision to move to the BJP to remain the chief minister “unfortunate” saying that “I don’t agree with the decision”. “The mandate was not for this”, he had asserted.
Going from his words, conclusion would be that he is unhappy with course of events and he should part company with the JD (U) and go his own way. He has also been meeting senior leader of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, CPM and Rashtriya Janata Dal that again should ideally be an indication of rebellion from his present political affiliation.
An enigma that Yadav is, nobody is willing to take a chance to predict his future course of action. He has been maintaining a studied silence telling publically that he is meeting people and is in process of arriving at a decision. Yadav, a student leader, entered into active politics in 1974 when he contested a parliamentary bye-election from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. Since he has been in and out of the parliament. He has won and lost Lok Sabha election as he has been elected to the upper house from MP, UP and Bihar. He was a minister in Janata Dal government of Prime Minister V P Singh and then again a cabinet minister in Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee government.
Yadav is the founder president of the JD (U) continued to hold the post until recently when Nitish became the party chief. At present, he is the member of the upper house elected on a JD (U) ticket. What has irritated the 70 old politician, who has seen many ups and down in his active political career, is the fact that Kumar did not bother to consult him before swiftly moving back to the NDA. He was kept in dark over such a significant decision by the Chief Minister, Yadav has confided to his close associates.
Kumar, who after his breaking away from the NDA after a 17-year long alliance with the BJP in 2013 and the crushing defeat of the JD (U) in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, had formed a grand alliance with the RJD and the Congress. The grand alliance had defeated the BJP in 2015 assembly elections.
Both Kumar and Yadav were actively pleading for the opposition unity to take on the BJP nationally as well as in different state assembly elections. The JD (U) leaders event went to the extent of stressing for a common candidate in the presidential election but Kumar made a somersault when he extended his party’s support to the NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind.
Yadav had been telling leaders of the 18 party alliance that the JD (U) was firmly in the alliance that was being formed to oppose the BJP-led NDA. Kumar’s decision has embarrassed Yadav hugely as it has been a big loss of face to Yadav but then charting a new political path like forming a new party is not a very comfortable option particularly at his age.
Yadav, who has reportedly been offered a cabinet berth in the Modi government, seems to be in two minds. He has to decide and choose between his conviction and comfort. Politically, he will be more at home in the opposition camp but remaining in the JD (U) will ensure a smooth life and his past association with the BJP does not put hurdles on such a path.
A rebel within him is propelling him to venture out and make history. Faced with the dilemma, Yadav is currently weighing pros and cons of the two options available to him at present.
Next 20 days are going to reveal which way veteran of many political battles would decide to go. He has clearly said that he would attend the JD (U) national executive meeting in Patna on August 19 if invited. JD (U) general secretary K C Tyagi has, meanwhile, confirmed that an invitation has already gone to Yadav.
While tone and tenor of Yadav’s speech at the JD(U) national executive meeting would clearly indicate the direction that he is going to take but whether Bihar Chief Minister is able to offer a deal that is attractive enough would also be crucial. The RJD has also invited him to attend the anti-BJP rally in Patna on August 27 where leaders of all the major opposition parties are going to participate. If the RJD chief Laloo Prasad is arrested by then and is sent to jail, the anti-BJP rally would become politically more significant.
Choices are not easy for Yadav particularly at a time when the opposition is in disarray and it seems that the BJP is going to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election. On the one hand, there is the option of going with an authoritarian leadership of the Prime Minister where there is hardly any scope for dissent. In the NDA, Yadav would have to maintain a low profile while enjoying comforts of power. If he decides to go with the opposition to save the idea of India and lead the struggle for preserving the liberal and secular ethos of the country, personal life is going to be difficult and rough. Having matured in politics for over four decades, decision of seasoned Yadav would definitely determine the course of opposition politics in the country.
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.