In a significant political development, the Janata Dal United (JD-U) headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar has decided not to contest assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh after seven months of intensive campaigning and trying hard to project “prohibition” as the key poll issue. The six-phased elections in India’s most populous states begin next month.
 
A decision to this effect was taken at the two-day meeting of party’s core committee which concluded here late Tuesday night. “The JD-U has decided not to join the UP assembly polls. The purpose is to defeat the communal forces by stopping division in secular votes,” party’s national general secretary KC Tyagi told newsmen in Patna today.
 
Although the party cited “division in secular votes” as the reason behind pulling out of the UP poll contest, the inside story is that no party showed any interest in allying with the JD-U which has no base in the UP. In fact, the top party leadership shuddered at the mere thought of severe poll defeat in the absence of alliance with any party and hence was forced to withdraw from the poll contest, feel observers.
 
Strangely, the JD-U was the first party to launch its poll campaign quite much in advance in a bid to present its clout and gain some political space. Encouraged by the empathic win in the Bihar polls and getting elected as party’s new national chief, Mr Kumar launched the formal poll campaign by holding his party rally in Varanasi— the political constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi—on 10 May last year.
 
At the meeting, he extensively highlighted the issue of total alcohol ban he enforced in his home state and promised to repeat the same if given the chance to rule UP. In the next six month, the chief minister focussed his entire attention on UP, holding as many as six rallies in various pockets having sizeable population of Kurmi votes and publicly supporting the stand of Hardik Patel.
 
Through the extensive poll campaign focused around his liquor ban theme, the JD-U boss tried hard to stitch up an electoral alliance with any political party having even a little base in UP. First, he extended his hands of friendship with the RLD of Ajit Singh but the deal flopped as the JD-U leadership reportedly rejected the demand to send his son to Rajya Sabha.
 
Sometime later, the RJD itself tried to renew contacts with the JD-U. This resulted in holding a joint rally in Badaut town of Baghpat district in UP on 5 October 5. At the rally, both leaders agreed to project Jayant Chaudhary as the combine’s chief ministerial face but sometime later the matter again got stuck.
 
Left ignored, the JD-U tried to get closer to the Samajwadi Party, and under part of this strategy, it even send its representatives during a function organized in Lucknow in November last year to mark the silver jubilee of the SP but the latter too took no notice of the JD-U.
 
The family feud in the SP appeared having come as last bray of hope for the JD-U which very smartly supported chief minister Akhilesh Yadav against Mulayam Singh Yadav. But its last hope also got dashed as the SP entered into poll deal with the Congress without including other secular parties in alliance.
 
“Nitish Kumar had no option other than withdrawing from the contest. He knows quite well that the embarrassment he faced today in withdrawing from the contest will be lesser than the one he would have faced after counting of votes. The fact is that the JD-U has no base anywhere in the country except Bihar,” said observers.
 
In fact, the JD-U had already faced similar embarrassment when it failed to open its account in any of the three states, such as Kerala, Assam and West Bengal where elections were held in May last year. What was further humiliating, on most of the seats the party forfeited its security deposits, and Mr Kumar just didn’t want to get another embarrassment in quick succession.
 
The BJP reacted sharply at the JD-U decision. “The JD-U fled the poll arena even before facing the voters,” mocked state BJP chief Nityanand Rai adding party leadership took this decision as they apprehended severe defeats in the elections.