An uphill task for BJP
It is a given that the Bihar Assembly polls next September-October will be a crucial test for both the BJP and the Narendra Modi government. It is more so after the defeat in the Delhi polls last December. The slanging match between Modi, who kick-started the campaign hinting at a Rs 50,000 crore central lollypop to the State
It is a given that the Bihar Assembly polls next September-October will be a crucial test for both the BJP and the Narendra Modi government. It is more so after the defeat in the Delhi polls last December. The slanging match between Modi, who kick-started the campaign hinting at a Rs 50,000 crore central lollypop to the State, and his arch foe Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’ stinging response to the former’s personalised attacks – all happening face-to-face at a rally – serve to underscore the sense of urgency in both camps.
There are claims and counter-claims too many, too early. With over six weeks to go for the polls to commence, neither a pre-poll survey predicting a clear majority for the Nitish-led alliance, nor the counter-claim by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu need to be taken too seriously. Yet, the straws in the wind blowing in Bihar indicate that Nitish is on a firmer ground with friend-turned-foe-turned-friend Lalu Prasad standing behind him.
The personality/ego clashes among ‘Janata Parivar’ have ended, for now at least. Jitan Ram Manjhi, whom Nitish had hand-picked and then shoved out, has already opted out of the race. He may at the worst be a marginal spoiler.Having joined hands with Nitish, the Congress may be supportive to Nitish without many gains for itself. The Left parties are on their own, gaining some ground, but likely to spoil Nitish’s prospects more.
All this allows a marginal edge to Nitish who can hope to keep the OBC-Yadav-Muslim support base considerate during his years in power. The other indicator as of now is that BJP-led NDA has bigger problems to surmount. Modi and the RSS are not on the same page. Despite the PM launching the campaign for this must-win election, the party has yet to determine whether it would make him the mascot or go back to the old identity issue, the way Sangh would want it, given its leaders’ penchant for asking any Muslim who does not agree with it on any issue to “go to Pakistan.” Bihar has a sizeable Muslim electorate.
Secondly, other than the PM, the BJP has no other mascot who can win Bihar. It has pushed into background the other Modi – Sushil Modi, the former deputy CM under Nitish. He is perceived as ‘soft’ to Nitish, having worked under him. Sushil, an OBC, could be an identifiable face of the campaign, if only the Sangh and the dissenters within the Bihar BJP will allow.
Even without the Sangh’s role, the Bihar BJP seems a divided house with many dissenters, covert and overt. If former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha keeps flinging barbs at the PM from time to time , the actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha actually met Nitish. His “no-politics” disclaimer made little sense after Nitish invited him to join forces with him the next day. Shatrughan may not mean loss or gain of many votes. But the cumulative damage caused by dissensions, unless rectified, can cost the BJP its Bihar bid.