PM Modi was back on the campaign trail after a fortnight and addressed four rallies in Saran, Vaishali, Nalanda and Patna districts yesterday, with the first one at Marhaura in Saran district.
Throughout the day, Narendra Modi was at his oratorical best and went after Nitish-Lalu partnership aggressively. He spoke to the people about his commitment to present a report card on his promises versus achievements in 2019 and asked what the two had to present after 25 years of collective rule.
His biggest statement of the day came during his last rally at Naubatpur in Patna. Addressing the people, he clarified that his government was committed to reservation and it has no plans to change the present policy on reservation. He further consolidated his point by referring to the BJP ruled states like Rajasthan, MP, Haryana, Maharashtra and also his own state, Gujarat, where the reservation policy continued unchanged. He even stated that he was in agreement with Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav on the issue of reservations continuing.
In fact, he stressed on the fact that no government could tamper with the current reservation policy. He ensured that the message ran home loud and clear to all that there was going to be no change in the reservation policy, thereby taking the wind out of Mahagathbandhan’s main rallying point that the BJP was trying to review the policy on reservation. It may be recalled that sometime back, RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat had courted controversy when he had publicly remarked that the policy of reservations need to be reviewed.
He questioned the rule under both Lalu and Nitish and asked the people why there had been no development in Bihar and why the youth were being forced to move to other states to seek jobs when there was enough potential in the state. He spoke of lack of investment on infrastructure in the area and asked the people to question Nitish and Lalu when they come seeking votes.
Speaking at Nitish Kumar’s backyard in Bihar Sharif, Nalanda district, Narendra Modi invoked his EBC status. He spoke of how the EBCs had suffered for years due to state apathy and how he as an EBC understood what life was, as he too was an EBC and how he had to struggle as a tea seller on trains.
The PM was accompanied by Union Minister Giriraj Singh and Jharkhand Minister for Health Ramkumar Chandravanshi, an EBC himself. Chandravanshi spoke before the PM and he too invoked his EBC status and that of the PM, positioning the PM as an ‘ati pichda’ – extreme backward class, and how he struggled his way to becoming a PM.
Giriraj Singh, on his part, spoke about the recent video leak that was released on social media which showed Nitish Kumar seeking the blessings of a tantrik. The PM, in an obvious jibe, kept referring to Nitish Kumar as Lok-tantrik. He didn’t spare Lalu’s sons either, as both are contesting these elections. He said that Lalu’s son couldn’t even write Rs 1, 25,000 lakh crore so how could he possibly take up the responsibility of spending the amount that the centre plans to give to Bihar.
Most of the rallies were well attended and 8 Nov will reveal how effective his words were.
Mamata Banerjee tweets in favour of Nitish Kumar
The Chief Minister of Bengal, for the first time in these elections, came out openly in support of Nitish Kumar, asking the people of Bihar to elect him. She tweeted “Request you all in Bihar to please vote for Nitish Kumar ji as CM for greater need of our country and development in the state”. Coming mid-way through the elections, the public statement is more than just a symbolic show of solidarity.
Bihar being a border state with Bengal, has a sizeable Bengali population living there and vice versa. Her statement of support for Nitish Kumar will have some impact on certain sections but more importantly, the tweet is also recognition of the fact that should Nitish Kumar win with a majority, he could possibly be a candidate to head a coalition of anti-BJP parties.
Mamata is probably sensing the winds blowing in favour of Mahagathbandhan and that is why she chose to speak up now rather than earlier. BJP has been hoping to win her support, along with Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, in an effort to consolidate its strength in Rajya Sabha but both the ladies have been playing hardball.
It is in this context that Mamata’s tweet gains significance and post elections, subject to a Mahagathbandhan win, Nitish Kumar could well emerge as a rallying figure leading an anti-BJP coalition.
Rebel dilemma for NDA and Mahagathbandhan in Chhapra
Barely two days to go for the third phase of polling on 28 October and rebel candidates of Chhapra in Saran district are giving sleepless nights to both alliances.
We have three-time MLA Udit Rai and a close associate of Lalu Prasad who is miffed at having been ignored in favour of the sitting MLA Randhir Kumar Singh from RJD, who also happens to be the son of Prabhunath Singh, a former MP. Rai, who contested the 2005 assembly elections in February and November the same year, lost on both occasions to Ram Pravesh Rai, JD(U). His contention has been that he has worked in the constituency for over 25 years winning the MLA seat for the first time in 1990 and therefore, was expecting to be preferred over Randhir Singh.
Udit Rai, a Yadav, still commands considerable following in Chhapra, though his influence has waned over the years. His contesting the elections against the Mahagathbandhan is worrying the party strategists, as any split in votes will favour the NDA.
The BJP too has its own set of worries. Ex-BJP member Kanhaiya Singh is becoming a headache for the party as he too has rebelled and is contesting the elections as an independent candidate. Chhapra has a sizeable Rajput community living there and Kanhaiya Singh is a Rajput. However, the BJP has decided to put up Dr CN Gupta who runs a well-known hospital there and is popular with the locals from all communities.
During the August 2014 Assembly bypolls, Kanhaiya Singh was a BJP candidate, while Dr Gupta had rebelled against the party and contested as an independent. In that election, Randhir Singh, RJD defeated Dr Gupta who garnered the second highest votes ahead of BJP’s candidate Kanhaiya Singh, who ended with the least votes between the three.
It was probably this reason that prompted BJP to back Dr Gupta over Kanhaiya Singh. But the problem for BJP is that Randhir Singh is a Rajput and the worry for them is that the Rajput community may vote in favour of Randhir Singh, RJD rather than back Dr Gupta.
Expect this round to be a real nail biter.