इंडियन आवाज़     20 May 2024 12:17:44      انڈین آواز

Will Junior Lalu upset Modi’s Applecart in Bihar?

(Last Updated On: )

Nirendra Dev in Patna

Of course there has been a lot of hype about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated visits to Tamil Nadu. But the BJP poll strategists and perhaps the Modi-Amit Shah duo also know it well that the battle is quite tough at hand in Bihar. On the first day of polling on Friday, April 19, only four seats went to the polls.

They are Aurangabad, Gaya (SC), Nawada and Jamui. In terms of understanding the gravity of the competition, the Prime Minister visited and campaigned for these four seats — as many as three times. Voter turnout on April 19 was still very low. 

Here in this eastern India state, Tejaswhi Yadav has created a major hurdle for BJP’s ambitious Mission 40. Out of 40 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar, the NDA had won as many as 39 and only one seat went to Congress – Kishanganj in 2019. After Nitish Kumar returned to the NDA fold, the general refrain in the NDA camp was even the 40th seat, that Is Muslim-dominated Kishanganj will come to the saffron alliance. But it’s not a cakewalk!!

Junior Lalu and former deputy chief minister Tejaswhi is now the face of his party as his illustrious father Lalu Prasad Yadav has taken a backseat due to age and the health factor.

“Tejaswhi is tapping the youth and there is a huge crowd coming for his rallies. He has created new hope among the youths,” says Patna-based officegoer Raj Kishore Jha.

Political analyst Jhantu Dey says, “This is a new RJD. Tejaswhi unlike his father is not depending only on Yadav and Muslim votes or the MY card. He has done some smart social engineering and has accommodated various caste groups”.

Tejaswhi is seeking to increase ‘outreach’ of opposition I.N.D.I.A block and thus tried to make penetration among the Extreme Backward castes (EBCs). The RJD has given three seats to the Vikash-sheel Insan Party (VIP) of Mukesh Sahni, leader of the Mallah-Nishad caste. Hence elections in Jhanjharpur, East Champaran and Gopalganj would be quite complex and tougher this year for the NDA.

However, the BJP sources dismiss such contention and maintain that the RJD applied ‘other yardsticks’ and not merit to give away three seats. Even the saffron party was willing to offer VIP one seat.

In East Champaran, the BJP has again fielded senior leader and former Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh. In the 2019 LS elections too, the VIP was a part of the Grand Alliance led by RJD and was allotted three seats Madhubani, Muzaffarpur and Khagaria but it had lost all.

The RJD may face problems in Purnea where RJD has fielded Bima Bharti. Former member of Parliament Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav has filed his nomination for the Purnea Lok Sabha constituency. The refrain among political stakeholders is that even if he cannot win, he will harm the RJD prospect. Santosh Kushwaha is the NDA nominee here.

Pappu Yadav had earlier merged his fledgling party with the Congress; but the Congress president in Bihar, Akhilesh Prasad Singh says he seat-sharing deal has been finalised. and f any Congress leader files nomination outside of the allotted nine seats, the party will not support the candidate.

The RJD is contesting 23 seats in the state.

On the other hand,  nine-term chief minister Nitish Kumar heading the JD-U has ceded ground to the saffron party by accepting to fight on 16 parliamentary constituencies instead of BJP’s 17.

Senior RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari says, “Tejashwi Yadav’s graph has gone up and Nitish’s stock has come down after his repeated flip-flop.”

Late Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan has emerged as a key player due to 7% Dalit votes. However, many say Paswan’s LJP (Ram Vilas) may not do very well.

But BJP’s chief strategist Amit Shah has shown faith in Chirag and he has been given five seats. This is overestimating Chirag’s influence. Shah also dumped Pashupati Kumar Paras, estranged uncle of Chirag and former Union minister in the Modi government.

A section of voters calling them ‘BJP supporters’ in pilgrim city Gaya says apparently the hype generated by Ram Temple may not quite yield substantial electoral dividends.

In order to keep the Ram momentum on; PM Modi whenever visiting Bihar does not shy of lambasting the Congress for avoiding the inauguration show of Ayodhya on Jan 22 and even earlier for “opposing Rama”.

The BJP also claims that its partnership with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) is a “natural alliance” repeatedly accepted by the common voters in the state.

Moreover, JD(U leader Rajeev Ranjan has claimed that the RJD’s so-called Muslim-Yadav (MY card) cracked in 2019 polls.  Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has acceptability across Bihar and it need not be based on caste(s) or even religion.

Nitish is well known as ‘Su-sashan Babu’ — something like Mr Good Governance.

BJP’s Ram Kripal Yadav, a former Union Minister, says “The Modi magic is very much prevalent and or our party will also get a good share of Yadav votes”. In 2014, Ram Kriplal Yadav had defeated Misa Bharati in Lok Sabha polls in Pataliputra.

But people tracking Bihar’s politics say the state’s polity has also evolved over the years. It is no longer a state of the 1990s when Lalu Prasad could get away with his style of flamboyant politics. As happens with any dynamic caste group, there are every chances that Yadavs would not vote as a chunk in a consolidated manner. The issues Ram temple, improvement in law and order under Nitish era and even issues such as infrastructure development, education, toilets and unemployment would influence voters to different degrees.

In some cases, Modi and Nitish have the advantage but there are key aspects when youngsters feel the RJD could be better for them.

They say, date with destiny cannot be postponed for ever. In 2005, Lalu faced this challenge and after 15 years of his rule the state went out of his grip. Nitish Kumar is in command since then continuously — often changing his alliance partner. And each time, Nitish makes a somersault, the other side — either RJD or the BJP have to come forward to do business with him. Nitish aura of 19 years too has to end. The BJP feels by 2025, it may have its own Chief Minister in Bihar.

The Congress and the RJD would like to get back their hold. Tejaswhi Yadav has become only deputy Chief Minister but the community would like Lalu’s son get the top post too.

Somersaults by Nitish Kumar

In November 2005, Nitish Kumar was the face of ‘Naya Bihar’ as envisioned by the BJP and his party JD(U). While Nitish Kumar came to power, senior party leader veteran George Fernandes was cornered. The alliance with BJP continued. In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, despite loss by NDA at the national level, the partnership continued. In 2010 – Nitish again returned to power in Patna.

But slowly problems were brewing as the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s poster alongside his came out during a BJP national executive meeting in Patna, Nitish cancelled the dinner he was to host for the BJP leaders. The differences kept increasing. In 2013 both Nitsh Kumar and Sharad Yadav
opposed Modi’s anointment as PM-candidate; and by June that year when Modi was made chairman of BJP’s campaign committee – the JD(U) walked away and formed government in alliance with the RJD.

But 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP swept and both RJD and JD) U suffered immensely. Next year in assembly polls, JD(U)-RJD combine recorded a landslide victory. But before 2019 polls, JD(U) was again back in the NDA and the saffron combine swept winning 39 parliamentary seats out of 40.
In 2017, the then Governor Ram Nath Kovind was made President.

In 2020, assembly polls, the NDA returned to power but JD-U strength came down. Though Nitish became Chief Minister again, his most trusted friend in the BJP — Sushilkumar Modi was not accommodated in the state cabinet. Sushil Modi came to Rajya Sabha. Yet again in 2022 after Presidential polls, Nitish dumped BJP and aligned with the RJD. Nitish started working for a comprehensive opposition unity at the national level.

He hosted the first historic meet of opposition leader in Patna. However, he was not made convener essentially due to intervention of Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal. Nitish is now yet again back with the BJP.

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