It’s a double whammy for Narendra Modi when he hits the campaign trail once again in Bihar starting 26 October. He is scheduled to address eight rallies but has an uphill task in hand, when he faces the people once again.
On one hand, there is the ‘beef’ controversy that has blown up against it and on the other, it is ‘dal’ prices that have gone through the roof and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for BJP. Elements within the party and supported by hardline right wing fringe, manufactured Dadri and created the ‘beef’ controversy that was further stoked by various party leaders. The impact has been felt in Bihar as BJP has shot itself in the foot on this one.
While the damage from the beef controversy continues to run deep in Bihar, the real issue that will decide the remaining three rounds of polling is ‘Dal’. BJP has spent the last fortnight focusing its attention on dousing the beef controversy when the real issue that has hit ‘all’ people of Bihar is dal. And Narendra Modi is going to face a tough time trying to explain why the price of dal has been allowed to spiral beyond control. Beef is a sensitive subject and can raise emotions for certain sections but the price of a staple food like dal becoming out of reach for an already stressed population, can have disastrous political consequences.
The UPA experienced ‘onion’ prices along with high inflation, that added to its anti-incumbency problem, leading to a wipe out during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but for BJP trying to break into the state hoping for anti-incumbency to work against Nitish Kumar, when it has not been able to tame the dal prices, makes it a double whammy for the party.
The explanation given by the BJP on the re-scheduling of Modi’s rallies to closer to the poll date i.e. 28 October, is because the impact of rallies remain for 2-3 days only. But that is the point. The people of Bihar consider ‘development’ as their No. 1 issue, followed by ‘caste’, which is an influencing factor, both being long-term issues, but in the immediate context, people don’t really care about beef, it’s the price of ‘Dal’, along with other foods, that matter. So the impact of what Modi has to say on Dal is going to matter, not ‘Jungle Raj’ bashing or name calling against Nitish-Lalu combine. The advertisement splurge is Bihar on these lines show that BJP is completely missing the point.
The next round of polling includes Patna, which is where BJP is strong with the upper caste and trader segment votes, but it will still have to contend with dal prices as people are certainly not happy with the latest development on food prices and it will play on their minds when they caste their vote.
With three rounds remaining, BJP has done well with calling in the ‘loose cannons’ within the party for a tough talk, and one hopes the message has been received. However, BJP needs to re-work its strategy and shift away from its Modi-centric push and promote local faces in the remaining rounds to try and get a local identity that people connect with.
This, along with ‘development’, must be the prime focus of all speeches during the remaining rallies. Lalu-Nitish bashing isn’t working and therefore it has to do some serious introspection. Let’s hope BJP comes back refreshed and rejuvenated to make the contest a truly interesting one.
Young Brigade prepares to take over
Just as in national politics, the state politics in Bihar is going to see a new generation breaking new grounds. Two stalwarts are in the process of making way for the next generation. Lalu Prasad is launching his two sons, Tej Pratap and Tejashwi Yadav. Tejashwi is educated in Delhi and is the more visible face between the two brothers and in coming years, one will see them both as important faces from the Yadav community. That is if they succeed in getting elected. Besides Lalu, Rabri Devi too has hit the rough streets of Bihar to promote her sons, as Lalu is banking on them to deliver in order for the family to remain relevant in state politics.
Same is true for Ram Vilas Paswan who has now been relegated to the background. He too is in the process of grooming his son, Chirag Paswan, to take over his legacy as the face of the Dalits in Bihar. Chirag Paswan who tried his hand at fashion designing and acting before taking the plunge into politics, got elected as the MP from Jamui constituency in 2014 and is now making his presence felt in local politics.
Chirag is already claiming credit for facilitating a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Jamui and has assured that in the next five years every village in his constituency will have an educational institution. He will be a name to watch out for in the future and we may well see him playing a bigger role at the centre.
It’s probably a welcome step, as Bihar needs fresh blood that doesn’t carry the baggage of caste and legacy politics, but Bihar is a state where caste will continue to remain the staple food for politicians. Will the new generation rise above caste to bring Bihar up to speed on development? Good question.
Party delegations meet EC to ensure free and fair elections
Several party delegations met with the CEC Nasim Zaidi, EC AK Joti and EC Om Prakash Rawat to discuss how the elections could be improved further and ensure free and fair polls. The BJP delegation led by their state president Mangal Pandey requested the CEC to ensure that the Paramilitary forces were deployed at the polling booth rather than outside. They also wanted additional observers covering Nalanda district which is also Nitish Kumar’s home constituency.
Other party delegations asked the EC to be vigilant against central ministers offering inducements such as free LPG connections. They wanted the EC to keep tabs on paid news from influencing voters, while some cautioned against false rumours being spread to vitiate the polls, especially with the puja season here.
The EC office deserves kudos for conducting one of the best polls in Bihar thus far, and one hopes that the same will continue till 5 November, without any untoward incident.
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