Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal United president Nitish Kumar’s much-hyped attempt to assimilate smaller regional parties into the JDU fold in a bid to forge a pan-India party against the BJP has turned out to be a damp squib.

Kumar, who seems to have an eye on the Prime Minister’s chair in 2019 and who wants to lead an anti-BJP front, was eager to finalise the assimilation of the smaller parties into the JDU before the UP Assembly elections, which are due next year. He had also given a call for “Sangh-Mukt Bharat”.

Interestingly, his attempt for unification of the larger Janata Parivar had also failed last year, before the Bihar Assembly elections. However, buoyed by the victory in Bihar elections, he tried to merge smaller parties, this time beyond the Janata Parivar. But this plan ran into rough weathers even before its take-off.

According to a top JDU source, Kumar’s plan to merge into the JDU  the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), Samajwadi Janata Party in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, has failed due to the reluctance of these parties to come together. “They do not see much benefit from this exercise. Moreover, leaders of smaller parties have petty interests, which are preventing them from the merger,” he said.

Now the JDU is planning to contest the coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on its own with Nitish Kumar leading the campaign. Last month, he addressed rallies in Varanasi. JDU sources said Kumar would visit the state again this month and address a workers’ rally on 18 June.

When contacted, JDU secretary general K.C. Tyagi said: “We tried a lot for the merger. But it did not materialise. In the context of UP, the approach of RLD leader Ajit Singh was not forthcoming, which led to a failure of the plan. We will contest the elections on our own. Regarding merger with other parties, we will strive for ‘functional unity’ with them.”

Sources said Ajit Singh was bargaining hard for the proposed merger. “Singh wanted himself to be made the national president and he also demanded a berth in the Rajya Sabha. He had also put a condition that his son Jayant Choudhary should be projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in UP. However, it was difficult for Nitish Kumar to fulfil these demands,” said the source.

“Same was the case with Babulal Marandi, former Chief Minister of Jharkhand and JVM president. Marandi lost the last Lok Sabha elections, and therefore, he wanted nomination for the Rajya Sabha. Moreover, there is no election in the state in the near future. Therefore, Marandi does not see any significant advantage from the merger,” the source added.

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