Have things gone wrong for Narendra Modi in Bihar? Is RSS not very keen for BJP victory under the Modi-Amit Shah duo? Have people of Bihar forgotten Lalu Prasad’s Jungle Raj? Or it's Nitish Kumar’s personal image that’s the real game-changer?
Amid these questions, the answers for most if not all these questions revolve around the political-journalism’s guessing game. But there are certain issues – and ear-on-ground feedback based on first two rounds of polls and those need closer scrutiny.
The first two rounds of polls in Bihar on October 12 and 16 have left BJP-led NDA in certain doubtful situations as there's no clear trend emerging in their favour and at the same time there's large scale apprehension that Maha Dalit votes in the name of Jitan Ram Manjhi is not getting transferred to the NDA kitty.
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"The polling of first two phases gives us confidence but no surety," summed up a BJP source admitting the perceived division among smaller caste groups (non Yadavs and
non Paswans) have thrown up new challenges before the leadership.
BJP's own analysis is while Manjhi and his party candidates have themselves done well in the seats they are contesting, the smaller caste groups vote share is not quite getting transferred to other NDA candidates. Moreover, there has been a latent one-upmanship battle on the ground between Maha Dalit (Manjhi) and Dalit (Paswan) party workers.
Thus, the BJP’s internal take is at best from the first two phases of polls – the NDA may bag 41 to 45 seats out of 81. This, according to BJP strategists, is much less than what was expected based on their assessment about two months back.
|Results and Methods|
This resulted in a sort of knee-jerk reaction typical of Narendra Modi’s style of functioning. Like most hard task masters, he looks for results more than the methods.
Three member panel was set up comprising Ananth Kumar, Dharmendra Yadav and Bhupinder Yadav.
The unconfirmed reports say they had a dressing down from the Prime Minister himself.
However, acting quickly the party’s leadership took feedback from the panel and decided to bring about certain changes in its electoral strategy in Bihar campaign with the general focus now shifting to local state leaders, caste factors on ground and also banking on the goodies. While the media has already tried to lay emphasis on cancellation of rallies, the BJP’s thought process is if Modi’s mega rallies despite attracting crowd is not ensuring turn them into voters, they should focus on state leaders.
“What’s more important, a mere prestige issue of mega rallies or winning votes,” remarks a state BJP leader.
In effect the emphasis is not on state leaders as experts in TV studios and 'sickular journalism' feel; its on caste management. Therefore, where Brahmin voters matter – the party has now lately come with posters of Ashwini Chaubey and if Yadavs matter, its Nand Kishore Yadav and Hukumdev Narayan Yadav.
To break things into simpler forms, BJP’s take away from first two phases of elections are the following:
- Muslim consolidation and smaller caste groups division can prove nightmare for NDA.
- Huge women turnout -- the fair sex want to have say in government formation and peace/law and order situation being their principal focus.
But BJP sees a catch in Muslim consolidation and larger turnout. “The women Muslim voters may not like to get back to Lalu Prasad raj as they too were victims during that period,” a Muslim BJP leader says adding large turnout of women thus can be interpreted as going in “favour of NDA and even JD(U) candidates but Lalu Prasad’s RJD may have to pay price”.
BJP sources, importantly, claim that "the fear of Yadav-Raj in Bihar (alias Jungle Raj and lawlessness)" - will help BJP-led NDA. The Yadavs are divided on the ground and Lalu factor has brought in an undercurrent of "non-Yadavs" consolidation". The Yadav division is attributed to Pappu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav's presence though marginally.
That BJP wants to make a big issue of Lalu Prasad vis-à-vis jungle-raj allegation can be understood from Ravi Shankar Prasad’s remarks, "Only the NDA can give peace, stability and development”. BJP has also dug out an old letter of Nitish Kumar lampooning at Lalu regime.
With elections in 32 assembly seats in the second phase today and 49 seats in the first phase earlier, all eyes will now be on the remaining 162 constituencies.
The people of Bihar, mostly mocked outside their state for one reason or the other', holds the trump card to decide next course of national politics.
Politics is often like billiard. You hit one ball, but the other goes into the hole. My humble curiosity is, will Bihar election help India get a new Finance Minister?
I have a bad habit of telling some of my best friends, “stop behaving like Biharis”. But Indian history has had Bihari characters who changed the course of India. To expose my Bong-know-all vanity, Jayaprakash Narayan was a Bihari. And my Bengalis, we hear of an allegation that a Bengali tried to bribe Subhas Bose family members with money. We may redefine an old Bengal-prided phrase: ‘what Bihar will decide in next fortnight, will impact national politics’.