What Modi offering 'bulk dates' for Bihar campaign means for BJP
Doubling the count
- Modi was scheduled to address 2 rallies each on 8, 9 October; now he will address 4 each
- The PM will also stay back the night in Patna
Why the anxiety
- BJP\'s plans doesn\'t seem to have worked as well as it thought
- The party has already played the caste card and the \'development vs jungle raj\' theme
- Dissidence is also cropping up over ticket distribution
More in the story
- How is the Grand Alliance playing the Lalu-Nitish tie-up?
- Does the BJP have a game plan to salvage the situation?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered bulk dates to his party's Bihar campaign. And it is not for nothing. The goings-on in Bihar indicate that the BJP is feeling the heat as the elections draw closer.
An assessments carried out by the BJP reportedly points toward the possibility of a close fight with the JD (U)-led Grand Alliance.
Bhupendra Yadav, BJP's national general secretary in-charge of Bihar, told Catch that these reports were incorrect, and that the feedback from party units across the state indicates a two-thirds majority for the BJP. However, recent developments do not support his contention.
The first phase of polls are on 12 October. Before that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to address two rallies each on 8 and 9 October. The count of the rallies has now been doubled to four. And Modi will stay back in Patna in the intervening night. Shows how anxious the saffron party is.
Also, the dependence on Modi's appeal to the electorate suggests that none of the party's strategies have really hit bulls eye: the party has played the caste card uninhibitedly - announcing that its chief minister will not be from a forward caste and by organising caste meetings.
It has also played 'development' against 'jungle-raj' and got the PM to announce a special package for the state. Turncoats from rival camps were eagerly accepted in the party-fold to send out the message that opposition parties were losing bench-strength. Modi has already addressed five heavily attended rallies which led to murmurs that there was an overkill.
But that was a week ago. None of its strategies appear to have created the kind of momentum the party wanted, forcing it to fall back on Modi.
Youth to be focus of appeal
How hard a task the Bihar polls are proving to be is reflected in the fact that party chief Amit Shah has been camping in Patna for about a week now. Shah and his team of key electoral strategists have reportedly decided that the campaign, led by the PM, must focus only on development from now.
The BJP's assessment is that Modi is a pull-factor for Bihar's young voters, cutting across caste lines. This key constituency, the party feels, responds only to aspirational politics. Therefore, it is best to deepen the party's appeal among the youth by talking only of development.
The BJP in Bihar is not free from troubles. It has denied tickets to 19 sitting MLAs, leading to resentment, even anger, among many party workers. Some of whom have protested openly.
Vikram Kunwar, the party's MLA from Raghunathpur, joined the JD (U) on 5 September after being denied a ticket for contesting this time. He alleged that Bihar BJP chief Mangal Pandey had sold his ticket for Rs 2 crore.
In Bhagalpur, the nomination of Arijit Shashwat, the son of MP Ashwini Choubey, saw widespread revolt in the local party unit. About half-a-dozen BJP leaders opposed the decision and two of them, Vijay Kumar Sah and Niranjan Sah, even filed nominations on their own. Former district BJP president Nabhay Kumar Chowdhary called the nomination 'pita-putra ki rajneeti' (dynastic politics or literally, 'father-son politics') and urged party workers to get Arijit defeated.
Dissent has become such a problem that some sources say the objective of Modi's Patna stay is to appeal to dissidents to stay united.
The reservation controversy
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement calling for a review of the reservation policy has hit the BJP hard in Bihar. Grand Alliance leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad have constantly highlighted that in their public addresses in an attempt to convince the OBC and EBC electorates that the BJP is out to take reservations away from them.
Struggling to mitigate the impact of this campaign, the BJP got its opportunity to turn the tables when Lalu courted controversy with his comment about Hindus also eating beef. As of now, it has succeeded in the putting the RJD supremo on the back foot, but Nitish is still playing up the reservation-scare.
More independent candidates
BJP strategists have also reportedly assessed that there could be a larger number of independents in the fray this time compared with the 2010 polls. The role of independent MLAs will be crucial in case of a hung Assembly.
Problems are aplenty for the BJP, but it still has an edge over the Grand Alliance. As of now, the NDA appears to be clearly ahead in urban areas with some support in rural pockets as well.
Nitish's decision to tie up with Lalu has spurred some negativity among some of those who would have considered giving him another chance. Removing Jitanram Manjhi from chief ministership has angered the Musahar community, in turn affecting the Grand Alliance's support among the Mahadalits.
BJP's Bihar plan doesn't seem to have worked well; the party is back to playing up Modi
Another factor helping the BJP is its line-up of Union ministers making multiple trips to Bihar, forming a strong second-line of star campaigners. Nitish is pretty much on his own, with even Lalu focusing on his sons and his party's pocket-boroughs.
Given the pluses and minuses on both sides, a close fight seems to be on the cards. Which is why the BJP may have decided to give Bihar a heavier doses of the Modi-magic.