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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

Next Story

What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)