Do the math. If Lalu and his sons, the younger one being older than the elder one, decide that enough is enough and they have more seats than does Nitish and break away at some stage and decide to join up in a sort of Faustian alliance with the BJP, where does that get them? That’s 80 plus 58 and in the green. Especially, if the BJP would love to get even-steven with Nitish for the bloody nose he gave them and pretend they are merely keeping the government going and not greedy for power per se.
In the past seven decades, we have seen this often enough.
Sixty months is a long way to go to stay friends when you don’t particularly like each other. Once reality sets in and the aphrodisiac of power is inhaled deeply, it is a fix. You need it and strange bedfellows are integral to Indian politics. And Lalu knows this is his last hurrah.
Before Rahul Gandhi starts feeling his oats and acting like Caesar into Rome, it should strike the Congress rank and file that if Nitish and Lalu hang in there and use super glue to stick it out, nothing is more dispensable than the 27 seats that count for a whistle in the wind. You get 80 plus 71 which make 151 and the Congress is of use then.
By that token, somewhere down the line, if all the mantle of the Bihari brotherhood wears thin and Nitish decides he is having to pay all too heavy a price for keeping Lalu sweet and it might be a lot easier to just let him break off and go his way, he can then make a ‘give us support from the outside of the tent’ arrangement with the BJP. The two have a history of marriages of convenience and have snuggled up on the same ticket before.
It also does not require rocket science to figure out that the BJP, chastened as it is and non-Bihari son of the soil in that sense, will be a whole lot more malleable and accommodating than a Lalu with 9 more seats who, unlike the tiger, will be hunting for the weak spot, not just at night but 24/7. Expecting him to sit docilely through five years without stirring the waters is like asking the scorpion not to sting the frog mid-river. It is in their nature. And now it is a family business. Guess who will be redundant again. Those guys with the 27 seats freezing in the chill of being frosted on the bench.
Don’t also expect the BJP to spend too much time licking its wounds in a cave of its own making. NaMo Inc will be searching for some headline-making tricks. He will pull out some rabbits from his hat most likely on the economic front (we have seen a sample of that with the FDI bonanza this Tuesday), some dazzle with gangland arrests like Obama did with bin Laden and a few high profile displays of wisdom on the home front.
If there is a tendril of fear, it rests in the fact that this is the best season for conflict across the border and a limited Kargil operation would end all opposition and catapult the Modi centurions into the warmth of the limelight again. You would rather India played cricket with Pakistan but when the monsoon has receded and armour can move and artillery is into scoot and shoot mode and the incipient lack of love is tangible and incidents ratchet up in a series like toxic Chinese firecrackers, the ingredients for stepping towards that burning bridge become probable. You can wish it away but don’t take it off the table. Between terrorist strikes and whipped unrest in Kashmir, that fear is never too distant.
The one scenario that is most difficult to absorb is that as things stand, they will not fall down. That 180 mark is not written in stone. The moving finger might have to come back.