Sunday February 17, 2019
Home Politics Bihar electio...

Bihar elections: Nitish-NaMo grudge match to shape Modi captaincy

0
//

New Delhi: It is imminent that by November 8, the Bihar enigma will come to the fore as a consequence of a high-octane grudge match featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. It is a battle that is most likely to affect national politics and shape Modi’s remaining tenure as PM, importantly his government’s capacity to push reforms and key legislations in Parliament.

nitish_sl_-11-10-2012The chime and bugle for Bihar battle were sounded on Wednesday when the Election Commission announced a five-phase poll schedule, beginning October 12 and ending November 5, with results on November 8.

On one-side are OBC stalwarts Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, along with Congress, and on the other, the NDA, led by Modi and supported by alliance partners Ramvilas Paswan, JD(U) rebel Dalit politician Jiten Manjhi and OBC politician Upendra Kushwaha.

The essentially bi-polar contest will test Bihar’s caste and political equations against Modi’s mega development pledge. Though a state election yet Bihar’s results could have a massive fallout on the Modi government. A win would improve his political stock and empower him to deliver on policy issues like GST and land bills. Equally, a defeat could hobble his government and make Modi wary of bold reforms.

Leading from the front, Modi has made a bold pitch for development, bolstered by a mega Rs 1.25 lakh crore package, even as the NDA is counting on its outreach to backwards and dalits, assisted by allies, to counter the backward credentials of its rivals. Development is emerging as the main poll theme with Nitish Kumar challenging Modi’s package and coming up with a Rs 2.7 lakh crore deal for Bihar of his own.

If caste elements work the way they usually do, the Lalu-Nitish-Cong ‘secular’ alliance will have a clear edge as the backward castes put together, along with Muslims, produce an electoral arithmetic that’s hard to beat. But if Modi changes somewhat this arithmetic with his personal appeal and promise of development, the NDA would not only change the electoral pattern in Bihar, it could also bury Mandal politics – its rival axis in the Hindi heartland– at least for a while.

Primary reports from Bihar suggest that NDA has moved ahead. What’s creating this impression among observers are Modi’s political rallies– huge and enthusiastic. The youth, in particular, are said to be smitten by his way of talk on development and jobs. Even the satta bazaar odds are favouring Modi. But these initial reports as well as satta bazaar odds have been proved wrong quite often.

After Bihar polls, if NDA is beaten, it will find it very hard to cut deals with non-NDA parties like Trinamool Congress, BJD, SP and AIADMK while an emboldened Congress- despite its minimal role in the Bihar showdown- will be tempted to step up its opposition in Parliament.

At another level, the Bihar fight is a fierce combat between the competing appeals of Modi and Nitish Kumar, both of whom claim to have delivered good governance and see themselves, as leaders with appeal beyond caste lines. Modi has already managed four rallies in Bihar and his focus of attack has been Nitish whom he has dubbed as an unreliable and duplicitous leader.

Mud has been flying thick and fast with political fireworks lighting the electoral firmament ahead of the formal announcement by the election commission.

The NDA is looking to better its appeal beyond the upper castes to MBCs like Nishads and their sub-castes, other occupation-related most backwards like julahas, lonias and badhais. Here an important element of the NDA strategy is to woo the MBCs in opposition to the rival camp’s dependence on assertive OBCs like Yadavs.

With inputs from TOI

Next Story

The Rafale Deal: Corporate Rivalry Impacting National Interest

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie's dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

0
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on 'India's strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal'.Pixabay

A recent European Union intelligence sharing exercise with India has revealed that Lockheed Martin, the US-headquartered company which manufactures the F-16 fighter jets, has been up to mischief mongering on the Rafale issue.

The Rafale jets, which India wants, is manufactured by the French aerospace company Dassault Aviation, a rival of Lockheed Martin.

That Lockheed Martin could be working in the shadows to sour the Rafale deal for India so that it could move in with its own deal was validated when Vivek Lall, Lockheed Martin’s high-profile head of strategy and India operations, said that the company was in the process of finalising the sale of 200 fighters to India.

During the UPA regime, the government had signed an MoU for 126 Rafale fighter jets to replenish a major shortcoming in air defence preparedness because the Indian Air Force did not have quality fighter jets. When the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, this deal was revised and an inter-government deal was struck to receive 36 fully-loaded Rafale jets. The controversy now raging in India is related to the pricing for the fighters negotiated by the NDA.

aircrat
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’. Pixabay

In December when the Rafale case came before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that processes were generally followed over the procurement. He also noted that the controversy had been triggered by comments by former French President Francois Hollande over the selection of the offset partner and that mere comments could not form the basis for a probe.

However, this has not prevented the Rafale purchase controversy from becoming a high-octane political battle between the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Repeatedly over the past few months and more stridently now in the lead-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has led a no-holds barred attack on the government and the Prime Minister specifically on the issue. From the earlier public disinterest on the controversy, it is now now getting some traction — the Congress party believes this could be possible because it has relentlessly raised the matter at all public forums.

Bringing up the case of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was said to be part of the orhestrated plan to present the case of the American companies while also appearing nationalistic. In the government’s estimate, HAL’s record is abysmal and it cannot be given a big responsibility like building fighter jets — more so in the light of the safety record of MiG fighters purchased from Russia and made under licence from HAL.

The BJP-led government at the Centre believes — and it is certain it has evidence of this — that the Congress party is doing this as it has become a party to corporate rivalry between the US and French aerospace companies. For the record, Lockheed Martin is believed to have found a sympathetic ally in another US aerospace major, Boeing, which manufactures the F-18. Dassault has another rival in French manufacturer Airbus Industrie, which is associated with BAE for the manufacture of the Eurofighter. It is also angling for a fighter jet contract with India.

Rahul Gandhi’s attacks on the government over the Rafale issue started after his visit to the US in August 2017 when he met several defence lobbyists, CEOs of US defence companies and Pentagon officials.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been obtuse in accusing the Congress of becoming a pawn in corporate rivalry. She made the comments during a recent seminar on ‘India’s strategic interest in the context of the Rafale deal’.

modi
Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Pixabay

The government’s efforts to trace the footprints of the dramatis personae at the forefront of the campaign to target the government over the Rafale deal has produced surprising results. It has found what it believes are eye-opening linkages between Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — who filed a PIL in the Supreme Court accusing the Prime Minister of corruption in the deal — and arms dealers and defence manufacturers. At least in one case, the linkages show deep connections between members of Shourie’s family with aerospace companies, arms dealers and defence lobbies.

A deeper look found a correlation between the end of Shourie’s dreams of being appointed Union Finance Minister and the beginning of his tirade against the Prime Minister on one issue or the other.

Also Read: The Craft of Distilling Is Ancient, Different Story Behind Every Bottle

The government is also aware of the links between a top BJP leader’s son-in-law and a French manufacturer. The son-in-law is said to be advising Rahul Gandhi and is believed to be making government documents available to him for the campaign against Rafale.

Lockheed Martin’s alleged actions to work the political ecosystem to pull down the Rafale procurement deal also has a larger strategic context. Contrary to popular perception, the Trump administration is said to be extremely unhappy with India because the NDA government under Modi has been successful in building strong relationships with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.  (IANS)