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Bihar Elections: Tough battle-ground for BJP as it shies away from development plank

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In the hour of Narendra Modi’s electoral triumph last year, he could not have imagined that only a year-and-a-half later, he would face a situation where he and his party would have to devote all their energies to maintain their prime position in the political field.

Unless Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are able to overcome the challenge of their opponents in the Bihar assembly elections this coming winter, their grip on the throne in Delhi will become shaky.

The first sign that all was not well for Modi in Bihar was available last August when the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress overcame the setbacks they had suffered in the general elections a few months earlier to win six of the 10 assembly by-elections in the state.

The BJP’s tally of four, pointed to a waning of the Modi wave that had enabled the party to win 22 of the 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar in May, 2014. With the BJP’s allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) winning six and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) three, the BJP-plus group’s total went up to 31.

To the BJP’s satisfaction, the worst show was by its former ally, Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, which could win only two seats while the latter’s one-time arch-enemy and now an ally, Lalu Prasad’s RJD won seven, showing that its victory by over 136,000 votes over the JD-U in the Maharajganj by-election in June, 2013, was not a fluke.

Clearly, Nitish Kumar’s contention that Lalu Prasad had presided over a “jungle raj” in Bihar when the RJD was in power between 1990 and 2005 had not significantly eroded the latter’s base of support.

But, now, political exigencies have compelled Nitish Kumar to push Lalu Prasad to the background. The JD-U chief is now the chief ministerial candidate of the Janata “parivar” led by Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP).

The BJP, however, is unlikely to be too perturbed by these developments. For one, the “parivar” has been saved in the nick of time because only a few weeks ago, it was being said by the SP leaders that the group would not be formed before the Bihar elections. Even now, its “unity” is apparently confined only to Bihar.

For another, Lalu Prasad’s observation that he was ready to consume poison – accept humiliation for the sake of fighting the “cobra of communalism” – has been seen to reflect his unhappiness over Nitish Kumar’s elevation.

The RJD chief’s distress is understandable because his conviction in the fodder scam has undone his gradual political gains as was evident from his party winning of seven parliamentary seats and three assembly by-election seats in Bihar in 2014.

Although the Manmohan Singh government tried to save him with Sonia Gandhi’s blessings by enacting an ordinance seeking to overturn the judicial diktat disqualifying convicted legislators, the document was torn up in front of television cameras by Rahul Gandhi. It was this act that has now led to the anointment of Nitish Kumar at Lalu Prasad’s expense.

But, the fraught relations between the two OBC leaders could not have been eased by the outward show of bonhomie because the RJD leader, as a Yadav chieftain, can claim to have the support of the largest group of the backward castes in Bihar since the Yadavs comprise 16 per cent of the population.

Lalu Prasad, therefore, undoubtedly saw himself as the obvious chief ministerial candidate of the Janata parivar, till he was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Nitish Kumar, who is a Kurmi, a backward caste which makes up a mere 3.7 per cent of the state’s population.

The preponderance of the caste factor may seem odd and even laughable to people outside the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh “cow belt”. But, it is a matter which is at the heart of electoral calculations in the region.

Although Modi regretted the continued dominance of casteism in Bihar during a recent visit to the state, it is precisely these caste-based animosities that the BJP will try to exploit during the poll campaign.

To show that it is not lagging behind in playing the caste card itself, the party has claimed that the Mauryan emperors, Chandragupta (324-300 BC) and Ashoka (272-232 BC), who ruled from Patalipura, the ancient name of Patna, were of backward caste origin – Kushwaha or Koeri.

What may be considered unfortunate, however, is why the BJP should have fallen back on these regressive tactics when its USP is supposed to be the prime minister’s development mantra. It was this agenda which won the BJP its famous victory in the general election.

If it is now resorting to the familiar divisive means of the Hindi heartland to edge ahead of its opponents, the reason probably is the party’s realization that it hasn’t been able to push the economic reforms vigorously enough to fulfil its last year’s promises.

Given this failure, the most that the BJP can expect is a narrow victory, which will be nearly as much damaging to its reputation as a defeat.

(With inputs from IANS)

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  • bigboss

    bjp will never bihar election this time solo,
    janata pariwar and congress will sweep bihar election with thumping majority
    and bjp and nda wil be reduced to two figure seat only i.e. around 25

  • bigboss

    bjp will never bihar election this time solo,
    janata pariwar and congress will sweep bihar election with thumping majority
    and bjp and nda wil be reduced to two figure seat only i.e. around 25

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Modi is anti-Dalit, will defeat BJP in 2019: Rahul Gandhi

Gandhi also accused the government of suppressing and intimidating the media

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Rahul Gandhi becomes president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi steps down
Rahul Gandhi steps in as President of Congress, Wikipedia

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government of being anti-Dalit and said his party will defeat the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Gandhi, who led his party’s day-long fast at Rajghat to highlight atrocities against Dalits and other communities, said party workers were protesting against an ideology, a way of thinking.

Rahul Gandhi becomes the president of Congress as mother Sonia Gandhi Steps Down
Rahul Gandhi is against Modi and his rule.

“The atmosphere that has been created in the country, it is due to the ideology of the BJP. BJP’s ideology is to divide the country, crush the Dalits, tribals, minorities. We are against the ideology of the BJP. We are standing against it today, we will stand against it throughout our lives. And we will defeat them in the 2019 elections,” Gandhi told reporters.

Asked about BJP Dalit MPs writing to Modi with their complaints, Gandhi said: “You talk to them in Parliament. They also tell us that Modiji is a casteist person, an anti-Dalit person. He has no place for Dalits in his heart, the whole country knows this. It is not a secret.”

Also Read: A voice of his own: Rahul Gandhi tries to impress Lok Sabha with his speech

Gandhi attacked BJP President Amit Shah for likening the coming together of opposition parties to “snakes, mongoose, dogs and cats” climbing a tree trunk to save themselves from floods. He said every person in the country was against the BJP.

“Some days back a BJP leader said that opposition members were animals. The truth is that today every person in the country is standing against the government. The approach that this government has against Dalits, tribals, minorities and farmers, we are standing against it,” he said. Gandhi said the country will not accept that Modi government “spreads violence, hatred in the country… We are standing here against this ideology.”

Raul Maino
Rahul Gandhi says Modi controls the Media. Twitter

Gandhi also accused the government of suppressing and intimidating the media. “You are standing on the other side but in actuality you are standing on our side as we are protecting you also. You are smiling, I know. We are fighting for you as well.” IANS