Nothing succeeds like success. The tremendous victory of the Mahagathbandhan (MGB) in Bihar and the effective way in which it countered the Modi juggernaut, is bound to encourage similar MGBs or at least demand for, or dreams of them.
One previous ‘Mahagathbandhan’, one can recall which proved to be equally successful as we witnessed in Bihar recently, was in Karnataka in 1991 and in 1994. Friends turned foes, Ramakrishna Hegde and HD Deve Gowda in 1988, after having been part of the first non-congress government between 1983 and 1988, had a bitter fall out. Gowda went on to align himself with former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar’s Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP) and Hegde remained in the Janata Dal.
In the 1989 Assembly elections, both were marginalised, Gowda more than Hegde. With just two seats in the Assembly, and Gowda himself losing in both seats he had contested, his condition was worse than that of Lalu Yadav in 2010 or subsequently. Hegde had retained a semblance of respect winning his own seat and his party reduced to 20 odd seats.
The Congress under Veerendra Patil had won two thirds majority in the Assembly. The next year and half was a period of introspection for both Hegde and Gowda, marginalised as they were. Came the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, and the two friends turned bitter foes, had enough time to introspect and to realise that divided, they were bound to fail again.
So after some tentative steps the two decided to support each other, as both decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections — Hegde from Bagalokot and Gowda from his native Hassan. The coming together happened during the campaign as both expressed regrets for having split and vowed not to do so again (its another matter that vow did not hold). But as it turned out, the coming together helped Gowda, as he won his seat, while Hegde got swamped under the post Rajiv Gandhi assassination effect, and lost his seat.
However, the uncomfortable MGB continued till 1994, when the reunified Janata Dal, won the Assembly elections comfortably. The 1994 elections in Karnataka was closest to the recent Bihar elections, as friends turned foes turned friends, managed to overcome all odds to come back to power.
Now with the success of the Bihar MGB, it is natural that the media, if not the politicians themselves, has got excited about possibilities of similar arrangements in other States. The most obvious one being speculated is in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due in 2017. While the wildly speculated MGB possibility between the Samajwadi Party and BSP has been dismissed by Akhilesh Yadav, the speculators have not given up.
The next MGB possibility being seen is that of BSP, Congress and Ajit Singh’s party. By the time of the elections, surely many such permutations and combinations will be heard of. The common factor in all these speculated combinations is that they all are anti-BJP formations.
The landslide victory of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and its share of 73 seats out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh is naturally the reason for the possible anti-BJP formations being thought of. The Bihar MGB’s success indeed is a motivating factor.
However how far will other MGB’s be as successful as the Bihar one is a moot point. For one the coming together of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar was not only a necessity for both of them, who otherwise may have faced extinction, but it was also a natural “gathbandhan”. The base of the two parties which had started together some quarter century ago is similar. The break-up of the two leaders was not on the basis of any ideological clash. It was more of an ego clash which had led to their separation. So once the egos were buried and the two leaders expressed regrets for their past behaviour towards each other, it proved easier to merge the political interests. The vote base of both also realised the importance of the two leaders coming together and rose to the occasion, which was evident in the final results.
Will the Congress and BSP and the marginalised Ajit Singh be able to find similar harmony in Uttar Pradesh? Do the vote base of the three parties be able to merge and harmonise their interest, and stand solidly behind each other in opposition to the BJP? How will this combination, if it works out, be able to take on both the BJP and Samajwadi Party?
Or will the unthinkable “gathbandhan” between SP and BSP happen, despite the denials now? And can Congress also join this “gathbandhan” to make it a real “Mahagathbandhan”? All these are now in the nature of fantasies.
Before UP, elections are scheduled in West Bengal, where too the possibilities of MGBs are being speculated upon. The ruling Trinamool Congress and the Congress coming together to fight what is thought as a resurgent left front or a promising BJP, is one possibility. This “gathbandhan” between Congress and Trinamool Congress will be the most natural one, as the latter is an off-shoot of the former.
Any other gathbandhan in West Bengal will be again in the realm of fantasy. The Bihar MGBs success however has spawned fantasies and it is to be seen, whether there can be any other similar MGB in any other State, and more importantly as successful. As of now it does not seem to be in the realm of possibilities.