Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad: It's Complicated

File photo of RJD chief Lalu Prasad with JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar

Patna: Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, once friends, then bitter political rivals for the past two decades, are back together in an alliance in Bihar for the state elections this year, brought together by a common need to defeat the BJP.

Said Lalu, 66, as he confirmed that he had proposed the name of Nitish Kumar, 64, as the chief ministerial candidate of their alliance, "I want to assure the secular forces and the people of India that in this battle of Bihar, I am ready to gulp everything. I am ready to drink all types of poison."

In social networking terms the relationship between the two Bihar stalwarts would best be described as - It's complicated. There are questions already on how long the partnership will last.

When they were both in the Janata Dal, Mr Kumar was widely credited with being the backroom boy who built strategies for his friend Lalu Prasad, who became Bihar chief minister for the first time in 1990.

But they soon fell apart with Nitish Kumar expressing disillusionment at the way Lalu Prasad, and then his wife Rabri Devi ran the state between 1990 and 2005.

Nitish Kumar began wooing the BJP, and was a minister at the Centre in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Lalu Prasad became a staunch Congress ally.

In October 2005, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and the BJP defeated Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar. Mr Kumar became chief minister for the next 10 years and Lalu his chief political rival, with each making many public jibes at each other.

The slugfest continued till 2013. That year, Mr Kumar decided to break his alliance with the BJP when it became clear that the party was prepping to name his arch political rival Narendra Modi its candidate for Prime Minister.

PM Modi won the national election last year, also in Bihar, trouncing both Lalu and Nitish.  

Lalu and Nitish have been brought together today by political compulsions. Nitish Kumar needs Lalu Prasad's Muslim-Yadav vote bank to upstage the BJP in Bihar. Lalu Prasad needs to stay relevant in Bihar's politics, and realises he cannot do it alone.