Bihar polls: Modi takes charge in bid to crush Nitish in his own den
After declaring a war on his principal rival, Nitish Kumar, at his earlier rally held last week in Muzaffarpur, a northern town known as the ‘political capital’ of Bihar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi now seems to be pumping in his all energies to win the battle in this key eastern Indian state. A victory in Bihar will indeed come as a morale booster for the saffron camp ahead of the assembly polls in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. West Bengal goes to polls next year (2016) whereas the elections in politically more significant UP are scheduled to be held in 2017. This explains why the BJP wants a victory in Bihar at all costs.
The popular response it was able to get during one such rally held last week has only inspired the top BJP leadership to go for more action. Enthused by the impressive crowd which filled every inch of the sprawling Chakkar Maidan in Muzaffarpur and then climbed on trees and bamboo poles to hear Modi, the BJP has now planned three more rallies of him in Bihar in a bid to charge up the voters before the dates of assembly polls are announced by the Election Commission. The idea is to retain its old pockets of influence and then concentrate on weaker areas, especially the north-eastern region having significant presence of Muslims and Yadavs who are considered traditional voters of Lalu Prasad. It was with this mission that Modi rallies have been strategically planned for Bihar.The first town chosen for a Modi rally was Muzaffarpur whereas his subsequent rallies are scheduled to be held in Gaya on August 9, Saharsa on August 19 and Bhagalpur on August 30. The selection of the rally venues assumes much significance since all these venues are located in four different corners of the state having great political significance. While Muzaffarpur located in the northern region of the state is known for the kind of rare political consciousness among voters, southern town Gaya is a prominent Hindu pilgrimage city where millions of pilgrims descend every year during the fortnight-long “Pitripaksha Mela” to ensure salvation to the departed souls of their ancestors. The BJP thinks this could be the ideal place for the party rally.
These are the two regions where the BJP-led NDA had made huge gains during the last LS polls—making a virtual clean sweep in reality. This can be underlined from the fact that of the total 31 seats won by the NDA, 28 came from these two regions alone. While the NDA bagged all the 18 seats in north Bihar, it emerged victorious on 10 seats falling under the south-central Bihar. It was only Nalanda which went to the JD-U kitty. During the last 2010 assembly elections as well, the NDA had given a terrific performance in the region. Especially in north Bihar, the NDA which then comprised JD-U and the BJP had clinched victory over 91 of the total 109 seats. While the JD-U had won 49 seats, BJP emerged victorious on 42 seats. It’s obvious now the pressures are on the BJP to retain its hold in the coming assembly elections as well. A repeat of the past performance will only give a walkover to the NDA in the polls.
Similarly, Saharsa, the other place selected for another rally of Modi is located in the north. It’s a part of the Kosi belt where two caste chieftains, Pappu Yadav and Anand Mohan, a Rajput leader now serving life term in DM G Krishnaiah murder case, rule the roost. While Pappu Yadav has already proved his hold over the voters by winning two seats in the family during the last LS polls (Pappu won Madhepura seat by defeating JD-U president Sharad Yadav, his wife Ranjita Ranjan won from Supaul seat), Anand Mohan has lost his political clout over the years due to his long incarceration.
The Kosi region comprises four LS seats but the NDA could win only one seat from there. Faced with the challenges, the BJP is now trying hard to woo Pappu Yadav although it does not want to include his outfit, Jan Adhikar Party, in the NDA due to the latter’s alleged criminal background. But the lure for Yadav votes is forcing the BJP to go near him while keeping a “respectable” distance. The Narendra Modi government’s move to provide “Y” category security to Pappu is being seen in this direction. The BJP obviously stands to gain if Pappu works for the NDA.
Likewise, Anand Modhan’s wife Lovely Anand, a former MP, too has now joined the NDA camp much to the BJP’s glee. She has got the membership of Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), a NDA constituent recognized by the Election Commission only on Tuesday. Her induction too is likely to consolidate the NDA position in the upcoming polls. Since Anand Mohan’s disappearance from the political scene, Rajput voters had been divided over whom to support but his family’s entry to the NDA, they are likely to rally round her afresh.
The eastern Bihar town of Bhagalpur is another place which will see Modi making a war cry. This place too holds importance in BJP’s scheme of things. A BJP stronghold for the past 15 years, BJP lost the seat to the RJD in the last LS polls despite strong Modi wave. The ‘silk city’ as Bhagalpur is known falls near the several Muslim-dominated districts in the border region, such as Purnia, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar. These areas have been traditionally voting for the RJD or the Congress with a few exceptions to the BJP but now party wants to woo Lalu’s votes by questioning latter company with Nitish.
Also, Modi is now going more aggressive towards Nitish. The way he questioned his DNA at his earlier rally in Muzaffarpur amply indicates how he has now gone ruthless towards his arch-rival. More such attacks are likely to be seen in the coming days. The reason why Modi has gone so harsh on his rival is the calculation that the NDA may get the support of the masses unhappy with the functioning of Nitish. On earlier occasions, Modi seemed to maintain restraint in his criticisms towards Nitish but this time he does not look to be in a mood to spare him.
“Narendra Modi still remains a very big factor and the huge crowd at his Muzaffarpur proves how popular he is among the masses. His presence on the scene will indeed bring a huge political change in BIhar. No one should have doubts over it,” said former minister Prem Kumar, one of the BJP leaders who is in the race for chief minister.
He said that the people of Bihar want change, and that’s why they see in Modi a “harbinger of hope”.