Dussehra is over and all campaigners got their much needed rest but from today its back to war. Armed with the recent ‘Dog’ remark controversy stoked by General VK Singh, BJP, Mahagathbandhan is all set to take on Narendra Modi as he returns to the campaign trail from Sunday, 25 October.
But this time the clash between bitter opponents is going to be more aggressive and with no-holds barred. Mahagathbandhan leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad are now changing track and have decided to hit Modi where it hurts most, and they know he is coming to Bihar when his party is on the defensive.
The Nitish-Lalu duo have managed to successfully blunt Modi’s barbs on ‘Jungle Raj’ and are now gearing up to take him on for every point and issue that he rakes up. The strategy the duo have worked out is that at each of the 23 rallies that Modi will address from Sunday onwards till the end of elections, either one of them will arrive at the same area within 24 hours, and hold a counter rally to rebut each issue that Modi rakes up. They realize that they have an upper hand now and with all the recent controversies of Dadri, beef, Faridabad, and now the dog remark, they have enough ‘masala’ to counter anything that Modi brings up.
PM Modi resumes campaigning with the first rally at Hajipur at 1330 hrs on Sunday. Nitish Kumar plans to arrive at Hajipur at 1530 hrs and hold a rally aimed at a counteroffensive. Apparently, Nitish and Lalu have decided to take turns on taking on Modi, depending on the location and community profile in that area. Between the two leaders, they have already addressed over 325 rallies till date.
The two alliances have their respective strategies in place. While Team Amit Shah is following a counter balance strategy by utilizing two leaders to address each rally, Mahagathbandhan has decided to go solo in each rally letting each leader garner full attention.
BJP to continue to focus on development, youth and women
BJP’s perception after the first two rounds of polling is that their message on development is going down well with women and youth and their feedback is that they are likely to win around 40 seats out of the 81 that have been contested thus far. If true, that’s a decent showing as the next two rounds are likely to be relatively more favourable to them.
Team Amit Shah is banking heavily on alliance partners LJP, HAM and RLSP to deliver the vote segment that has eluded BJP so far, and if they deliver, this could well be the moment for BJP to reinvent itself and emerge with a winning formula that could work equally well in U.P in early 2017, when assembly elections take place there.
A win here, under this arrangement, will weaken the traditional ‘secular’ groupings nationally that has drawn support from the vote bank that the three partners of BJP represent. The party will then have the opportunity to extend this formula to try and take on various regional parties on their own turfs.
The flip side is that if NDA fails to form the government in Bihar, it will have two likely outcomes; one, the Dalit-OBC-EBC and other weaker sections will fall back on the traditional ‘secular’ groupings, seeking their protection and support. The other possible outcome could well see considerable weakening of brand Modi, within the party and in its relationship with the RSS.
One cannot forget the internal dissensions within BJP just prior to the 2014 elections. The dissenters are lying low, for now, on account of the Modi brand juggernaut. Same is true for the RSS, which has decided to continue to give Narendra Modi a long rope and is waiting to see how he delivers. Should he lose Bihar, RSS is bound to be more assertive and so will the fringe elements who have now been gagged by BJP and the RSS. This will derail Modi’s attempt to get the party to move away from the right and towards being more centrist in its ideology.
PM Modi’s prolonged silence is not really his personal choice but the party’s compulsion, and how he overcomes this quandary in Bihar will frankly decide his fate and that of his party’s, going forward. Manmohan Singh too faced a similar situation when he was gagged against speaking out on UPA’s contradictions and was forced to toe the party line, in the absence of his own political constituency.
‘Dog’ remark adds to growing unease among NDA partners
For the BJP, it just doesn’t seem to end. It has been in firefighting mode since the Dadri incident which was soon overtaken by the beef controversy. Barely had the two begun to settle when the tragic Faridabad incident happened that led to the burning of two children. And now, Gen VK Singh has done his bit to once again put BJP in a spot and on the defensive.
This time around, the opposition led by Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad plan to take the BJP to task with an aggressive plan to go to the masses against the party’s perceived anti-Dalit stand. Putting BJP in a corner, they are now demanding Gen VK Singh’s sacking, and if an FIR gets registered against him under the atrocities against SC/ST act, then Gen Singh could well be in trouble. Any inaction on part of BJP will be used against them by the Mahagathbandhan that sees an opportunity just before the crucial third round of polls.
To be fair to Gen Singh, while his ‘dog’ analogy was indeed incorrect, inappropriate and ill-timed, it was certainly not his intention to demean the Dalits in any way, as his secular credentials are impeccable. He has since apologized but the damage has been done.
Alliance partners like Ram Vilas Paswan and now Jitan Manjhi, have voiced their strong disapproval. They will now be in an embarrassing situation when they face their constituency. The anti-Dalit expression and related incidents are all adding up, as the same is being highlighted by the media in Bihar and people are naturally concerned. Any silence on part of these leaders will mean a loss of face for their cause and any voice raised against the BJP at this time, will be seen as dissidence. Both have, however, voiced their protest, albeit mildly, and remain tentative in the run-up to the 3rd round. Both will be watching how Nitish-Lalu rake up the issue during campaigning over the next 3 days.
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