By Arun Srivastava
The announcement to form a Third Front by the former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Saturday is more than his expression of intent and interest to effectively intervene in the election to the Bihar assembly.
Sinha certainly does not nurse a huge utopian mission of winning the elections. But even then he threw his weight. And this move of his has been quite intriguing; what drove him to resort to this action?
Sinha’s search for relevance in Bihar primarily owes to the high handedness and big brotherly attitude of the RJD. Though the party suffered a major setback only a week back, its leadership is reluctant to mend its manner and approach towards other opposition parties.
Some senior opposition leaders nursed the view that realising in the susceptibility of the situation, the party supremo Lalu Yadav will advise his men to adopt a pragmatic approach and stand. But it does not appear to be happening. Senior leader Raghuvans Prasad Singh, who has been the close friend of Lalu Yadav, quitting the party has made it explicit that either Lalu’s writ now no more runs or on personal level he is not interested in making space for other leaders.
Though Sinha has his political turf in Hazaribagh of Jharkhand, his decision to form the Third Front in Bihar has raised eye brows in the political circle. Most of the leaders are busy decoding the reasons for his shifting the base to Bihar. A senior BJP leader belonging to the Kayastha community trying to figure out the reason said; “He belongs to Kayashtha community. They constitute mere 1.5 per cent of the state’s population. It is obvious in a highly caste conscious state, he cannot aspire to rope in other castes. Though some old leaders from various castes have joined him, it is not yet clear how far he would succeed in providing a common platform to various groups and forces”.
Sinha has his own image but it is confined only upto the rich and aristocrat families. Sinha along with two other seniors, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, were sidelined in the party after Modi’s victory in 2014. This came even after Sinha supported Modi before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
After the BJP’s defeat in 2015 assembly election in Bihar, these three leaders had indirectly attacked Modi and then BJP president Amit Shah, saying that the principal reason for the defeat was the way the party had been “emasculated” and its consensual character had been destroyed.
Sinha lashed out at Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and stressed the need for change in Bihar. He has been open to accept any body in his proposed front but the only condition that would apply is these leaders should not impose any condition to join. His primary aims is to promote “a credible alternative to NDA and RJD.
This January he undertook a nationwide padayatra against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens and National Population Register. He had also staged a protest at Rajghat in Delhi demanding deployment of the Army to help migrant labourers who were fleeing home amid the Covid lockdown.
Since 2005, Bihar politics has remained polarised between RJD chief Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar. However, as several castes parted company with Yadav his rival Kumar grew stronger. Though it is said the leaders who accompanied Sinha on stage were no more relevant in the state politics yet their presence sends an important message. Majority of them belonged to upper castes and most of them were with BJP.
Some leaders feel that Sinha’s move is a conscious effort to bring the upper castes together on a common forum. Shatrughna Sinha who just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election had joined Congress was also present. If the sources are to be relied a fierce infighting between upper caste BJP leaders inside the party is going on. These leaders outright blame Sushil Modi, senior BJP leader state’s dy chief minister for creation of this situation and their marginalisation in the party.
He has been eagerly looking for an alternative forum. It is expected that Sinha’s front may serve this need. On Saturday Sinha promised that he has been trying to “create a strong political centre” in Bihar that will participate in the assembly elections. It is hoped that it will work like a balancing force. It is expected that even Congress eventually would prefer to partner with the newly formed front. Sinha said, ““We want to become an epicentre of power in Bihar and future will decide whether we’ll be a third front or first front but we’ll strongly contest the upcoming Assembly elections in the State”. Sources close to him mentioned that he embarked on this journey after several leaders from Bihar had approached him over the last three months, asking him to lead a third front that could challenge JD(U) in Bihar.
Yet in a significant move while Sinha advised Rahul Gandhi to follow through on his decision to step down as Congress president or risk losing “public estimation and run the party through a presidium”, he also suggested; “Unsolicited advice to Rahul Gandhi,” please finalise your alliances in Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi and elsewhere. (IPA Service)