After two phases of polling, the sense one gets is that BJP’s ‘Modi’ strategy may not be working. The problem with BJP’s Bihar campaign was that it looked at the positive sentiment a few months ahead of the polls and assumed BJP was in with a real chance. At the time, the party believed that Narendra Modi’s high profile presence at the centre was making a positive impact within communities in Bihar, which were earlier supporting the Nitish-Lalu camp, and this seemed to be an opportunity to break through the Bihar wall.
The party believed Modi’s successful US tour and its massive media broadcast in India would go down well with voters in Bihar and therefore the party brought Modi in as their star campaigner hoping to use him to ram through the Nitish-Lalu bastion. The question of announcing a CM prior to elections was not deemed necessary as the strategy worked in earlier elections and it was felt safe to withhold the CM candidate until post elections. This may be turning out to be a miscalculation. The voters in Bihar needed a face just as the Grand Alliance put up Nitish Kumar as their face.
So did BJP get its ‘Modi’ strategy correct?
After two rounds of voting, it doesn’t seem so. The party seems to have got its strategy wrong on several counts. It assumed that the ‘Modi’ charisma was working and that the voters would see his initiatives at the centre and overseas, and give his party the opportunity to rule. That may just have worked but for two ‘unforeseen’ events – ‘Dadri’ and ‘reservations’.
There was definitely a section amongst the Muslims, the Yadavs, the Kurmis, and even the OBC/EBC communities – all traditional supporters of JD(U)-RJD camp, that did seem to believe in the Modi story and perhaps a section was looking at giving Modi a chance. But then ‘Dadri’ happened. Any chance or hope of bringing a section of the Muslim community over to the BJP camp was lost. To add salt to injury, CM of Haryana ML Khattar came out with his objectionable remark saying Muslims can live in this country but will have to give up beef.
That wasn’t all. Mohan Bhagwat, the Sangh Parivar supremo rubbed it in further when he came up with his statement on the need to review reservations. A salivating Grand Alliance gladly lapped up the ‘opportunities’ and went to town with it and it seems to be working. Dadri took away the Muslim vote opportunity, while reservations pushed the SC/ST, OBC-EBC categories back to the traditional JD(U)-RJD camp. The PM’s prolonged silence has not gone down well with people not just in Bihar, but across the nation.
Phase two of the polling had a large following from the latter group therefore, after two rounds of voting, BJP may not be getting the numbers it hoped for by using ‘Modi’ as its mascot. BJP was hoping that people would respond to their reminder of ‘Jungle Raj’ and a section of traditional voters of JD(U)-RJD would be won over but that doesn’t seem to be working.
This may not mean that BJP is a lost cause, they are still in with a chance to pull back in the race but the initial advantage seems to have gone the Grand Alliance way.
So what are the chances going forward?
The last phase covers the Seemanchal region. That is a Muslim, OBC-EBC stronghold and BJP can write off making any breakthrough there. Owaisi of AIMIM could have split the Muslim vote that would have proven to be of some advantage to the NDA, but with ‘Dadri’ and the ‘beef’ controversy, Owaisi’s AIMIM will have no choice but to work in support of the Grand Alliance.
Which means, BJP has only the next two rounds to make up lost ground from the setback in the first two. From here, it will be a tall order unless BJP can pull out a proverbial ‘rabbit’ out of the hat. And that seems highly unlikely.
To further spoil their chances, Nitish-Lalu combine have been projecting Nitish as the-son-of-the-soil against Modi, an ‘outsider’, who had come to offer dreams to the locals. BJP has itself to blame. It projected only Modi all the way, ignoring local leaders who people connect with. As a result, mid-way into the polls, BJP has now belatedly realized that over emphasis on Modi is perhaps not working and has begun to project its local leaders in posters, banners etc. But this move has come too late, as the battle line is now defined between Nitish and Modi. One a local, the other an outsider, and voters in Bihar mostly prefer to vote for a local face from their own community, therefore, Modi may have lost this one to Nitish.
There are signs of growing doubt in the NDA camp with whispers amongst party cadres of protecting ‘Modi’ from further damage and not overexposing him for the remaining period of the campaign. Modi’s rallies have been gathering large crowds but are they converting to votes? It will be interesting to see what Team Amit Shah does to recoup from here with three more rounds to go.
Lalu gets his ‘fan’ following!
There was a ‘fan’ between the cup and the lip! The irrepressible Lalu Yadav had a miraculous escape on Friday when he was sitting on stage at an election meeting. Sipping his tea, he noticed the ceiling fan on the stage he was sitting on seemed rather wobbly and he did point out the same to the meeting organizers. He had barely finished pointing to the fan when it came crashing down. The fan hit Lalu on his right hand that was holding the tea cup but beyond that, no one was hurt, fortunately.
The incident was both serious and hilarious, and Lalu himself retained his sense of humour and candor to make use of the incident and take on Modi and his party.
Lalu is India’s most entertaining and colorful politician who has a knack of creating news and attention wherever he goes. Just the other day, the stage on which he was standing collapsed. He had a narrow escape but once again used his humour to not just laugh it out but take on the opposition as well. News does not seem to follow Lalu, he creates it as only he can. Onward Laluji !
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