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Divide, polarise, confuse: BJP's strategy for final phase of #BiharPolls

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 7:50 IST

By the BJP's reckoning, it has little to gain in the final phase. Why? On most of the 57 seats across Seemanchal going to polls on 5 November, the Muslim vote holds the key.

But the party is not sitting back. If it can't gain, the thinking goes, it certainly can spoil the rivals' prospects.

The strategy is already in play and it's rather simple: divide and polarise the voters by appealing to their insecurities. Perhaps, after all, Amit Shah wasn't boasting when he claimed to have "200 strategies for 200 seats".

The strategy has several component parts, each encapsulated in a message.

The terrorists are coming for you

For years, the alleged presence of Bangladeshi Muslims was the BJP's main political issue in Seemanchal. A few years ago, in fact, the students wing of the party, ABVP, had organised a national convention in Forbesganj, Araria, on this issue.

This election though, targeting "illegal Bangladeshis migrants" hasn't got much traction. So, the party has dragged in Pakistan. Its leaders have alleged that the region has become a terror hub during Nitish Kumar's rule. And Amit Shah recently claimed that were the BJP to lose in Bihar, firecrackers would be burst in Pakistan.

They will take away your quotas

If making Hindus fearful of Muslims by crying terrorism doesn't work, tell them their reservation benefits are under threat.

First, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself told the Dalits and OBCs that Nitish and Lalu Prasad were conspiring to give their quotas to Muslims. Then the "warning" was amplified through newspaper ads.

The Election Commission stepped in and banned the ads but the damage was done. The party's volunteers and supporters have since carried this "message" to every constituency.

They kill cows and eat beef

Then there's the BJP's time-tested tactic of fanning communalism. This time it's being done through the cow. A day before the polling, people in the region woke up to a new newspaper ad that essentially accused leaders of the Grand Alliance of promoting cow slaughter:

Mr Chief Minister, while your allies were repeatedly insulting the holy cow, you kept quiet.

Stop vote bank politics and explain whether you endorse these statements.

The ad then repeated statements made by, in that order, Lalu Prasad, a senior RJD leader, and Karnataka's Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

"Don't Hindus too eat beef? Aren't people from India eating beef outside the country? Beef is eaten in India as well. It doesn't make any difference to a non-vegetarian whether the meat is of goat or cow."

"It's written in the Vedas that Rishi-Maharshis also used to eat beef."

"No one can prevent me from eating beef if I want to."

No Answer, no vote.

Change government, change Bihar.

It was clearly intended to appeal to the "sentiment" of Hindus. The idea is that if the Hindus vote en mass for the BJP, it just might get a few seats. At the very least, they won't for the Grand Alliance, instead going with Pappu Yadav, Samajwadi Party or independent candidates.

This strategy can be especially effective in constituencies where the Hindus are in a minority but not by much.

They are turning other castes against you

Even if not all Hindus are convinced to support it, the BJP believes, the forward caste vote is there for the taking. And to bring them on board, the party has deployed community leaders and the RSS cadres. In Purnia, at least, the Sangh cadres seem to have successfully polarised the forward caste voters.

See, our candidate is one of your own

The BJP has fielded several candidates from communities that are likely to support the Grand Alliance. This is meant to confuse these communities and, thus, split their vote.

This will add to the damage the Samajwadi Party, AIMIM, NCP and Pappu Yadav are expected to cause. All these players are unlikely to win any seats, but they will definitely eat into the Grand Alliance's vote share.

Since Tuesday evening, apparently, the BJP is employing a new trick in some of the poll-bound districts: Sangh cadres are going around saying the NDA is losing the election. The aim reportedly is to make the Grand Alliance's voters complacent and, thus, prevent their consolidation.

Be careful what you wish for

Just in case all these tactics fail, the BJP has been reminding the voters what it has been harping on since the very beginning: that the Grand Alliance is "unnatural" and won't last.

"Why vote for a short-term government," the message goes, "especially one that won't be on good terms with the Centre where the funds come from?"

First published: 5 November 2015, 9:44 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.