Amit Shah was back in Bihar and getting his team to gear up for the next round of elections on 28 October. Speaking to the press in Patna, Amit Shah spoke of how the BJP was well ahead of Mahagathbandhan in the first and second round of polls, contrary to media reports suggesting otherwise. He was confident that NDA would win 32-34 seats of the total 49 seats that were contested in the first round and 24 of the 32 seats in the second round of voting.
He extended his confidence to the point that he set the agenda for 8 November, the day the results will be announced, by saying that by 12 noon BJP would have got its two-thirds majority and by 2 pm, Nitish Kumar would be taking his last ride as CM to tender his resignation to the Governor. To what extent his words will come true will have to wait till 8 November but he does have a challenging task at hand.
Meanwhile, he took the opportunity to re-iterate his party’s stand on reservations saying it was here to stay and the same would not be reviewed. He also tried to distance his party from Dadri and Kalburgi’s murder in Karnataka, saying both were incidents in states and the state governments were responsible for law and order and must be made to answer, further stating that this had nothing to do with his party or the PM.
Reports suggest that low attendance in various rallies being organised by the party, including those where Amit Shah has been the chief draw, has been a major concern with attendance as low as 1,000, sometimes even lower. The attendance and public enthusiasm hasn’t been anywhere as vigorous as those seen during Narendra Modi’s rallies.
Same stands true for rallies organised by RLSP and LJP. BJP has roped the likes of Manoj Tiwari to draw crowds at rallies but beyond that it’s been tough to get people enthused to attend rallies in this heat. Bihar is still very warm during the day.
In fact, the biggest draw for crowds are the helicopters that arrive with VIPs and interestingly, people seem keen to watch the chopper while its stays parked than listen to the leader who arrives there to speak. Over 20 helicopters have been pressed into service for various political parties. That said, it’s equally true that low attendances has been a problem for the Mahagathbandhan as well.
This brings back BJP’s dilemma of whether to continue to project the PM against Nitish Kumar or whether to pull back a bit and bring the local leaders to the front. Belatedly, BJP has begun including alliance partners Jitan Manjhi, Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha’s pictures in fresh posters that have recently sprung up, in an acknowledgement of their influence in constituencies where they are strong.
Further acknowledgement that Amit Shah is reworking his strategy is the fact he has been holding closed door meetings with alliance partners, something that was missing in the last fortnight. This goes to show that the BJP is tentative about the outcome in the first two rounds thus necessitating the change in strategy. Narendra Modi is due to address around 22 rallies starting 26 October.
Nitish Kumar again brings up Bihari vs Bahari
Nitish Kumar has kept up relentless pressure on Narendra Modi challenging him over Dadri, the beef controversy, his prolonged silence, his selling of big dreams with little action, and now the focus is on making it a Bihari versus Bahari issue.
Since Narendra Modi has been the mascot and star campaigner for the NDA, Nitish Kumar has positioned himself as the local guy-next-door when compared to Narendra Modi, who is an outsider. He asked people why would they want to choose an outsider when they had a local person in Nitish Kumar?
He has also been rubbing the DNA point made by the PM during his Maha Parivartan rally in July where he questioned Nitish Kumar’s DNA. He asked why the PM wasn’t accepting thousands of DNA samples lying at the post offices waiting to be tested. Nitish has been hitting out at the PM at every occasion often rebutting the PM on all points raised by him.
Narendra Modi has been bringing up Nitish’s alliance with Lalu Prasad saying that Jungle Raj would be back, but Nitish Kumar has countered it by saying it was important for secular forces to come together to fight right wing extremism as being promoted by BJP and its mentor, the RSS. The Jungle Raj line would have stuck in favour of BJP had all the recent controversies not happened, but now Nitish Kumar is making it out as a secular versus extremist issue, something apprehensive weaker sections of Bihar are worried about, and they form almost 50% of the population.
EC orders Paramilitary forces to man booths
Responding to the suggestions made by various political parties to improve the remaining phases of polls, CEC Nasim Zaidi instructed all DMs and SPs to ensure that paramilitary forces were deployed inside the polling booths and not just outside. This was to instill further confidence in voters, especially from the more vulnerable sections, to come out in greater numbers to vote.
He spoke of minimal complaints received on account of electoral rolls and the fact that the high turnout being witnessed was because they were able to distribute 98% of the voter slips well in advance, besides successfully carrying out voter awareness campaigns.
The CEC disclosed that around Rs 39 crore had been seized so far by various departments and the pressure was continuing. He said that several non-bailable warrants had been issued against bad characters as a preventive measure and over 50% of licensed weapons had been deposited with the authorities.
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