As Bihar prepares to hold the 4th phase of elections on Sunday, BJP continues to carry forward its strategy of not declaring its CM candidate prior to polls. The main objective of this strategy has been to ensure that there is no debate or divide within the party and between alliance partners, resulting from the choice of CM candidate prior to polls, and it has worked for them in other states.
But just as ‘one-size-fits-all’ does not apply all the time, in Bihar too, expecting the same strategy to work has actually backfired badly on BJP, and with the penultimate round of voting to be held tomorrow, it’s now too late anyways.
By not declaring its CM candidate, the BJP opened itself to all kinds of attack and the Mahagathbandhan counter offensive on this has taken away any advantage the party may have initially had in containing dissent and in putting up a united face.
By not projecting a ‘local’ face that people identify and connect with, BJP has exposed itself to accusations of ‘Bahari’ vs ‘Bihari’ jibe that seems to have registered with the people. Furthermore, Amit Shah has chosen to once again present Narendra Modi as the face of the campaign and to lead the party as a star campaigner in all its rallies.
By default, Modi has become the face of the campaign in Bihar and in doing so, he has positioned himself as the ‘Bahari’ versus the local ‘Bihari’ in Nitish Kumar. One doesn’t need the Mahagathbandhan to coin the term and make the accusation, since that’s the way it has come out before the people. While people have one option in Nitish, they still do not know their other option, since the party has not given them the right to choose.
Amit Shah and other leaders involved in the campaign should have read the situation even in the early stages of polling, and taken a call on the CM candidate. The last minute course correction would have taken the wind out of the Mahagathbandhan campaign and would have shifted the attention from Narendra Modi to the fight between BJP’s CM candidate and Nitish Kumar, with Modi playing the star campaigner. That would have worked for the BJP but that’s not what happened.
So, why did Amit Shah hold back from initiating a course correction? The answer probably lies in two ground realities. One is that the BJP probably plans to install a candidate other than Sushil Modi. If it is not going to be Sushil Modi, then BJP probably plans to bring a relatively unfamiliar face, just as it did in Haryana, when it installed Khattar as CM over the more familiar Capt. Abhimanyu. Sushil Modi remains the best person from the BJP camp and also the most acceptable one to be the CM. But he doesn’t come close to Nitish Kumar’s stature.
The other probable reason for holding back the CM candidate name is to avoid any possible break-up with the alliance partners. The united stand of the alliance is only skin deep and dissensions with partners as also within the BJP, would spill out in the open giving the opposition a field day.
Both the above are possible compulsions for Amit Shah to hold back the CM candidate’s name despite being caught up in a situation where a local ‘Nitish Kumar’ is being pitted against someone who is not even a CM candidate. But it’s a strategy that BJP decided to follow and on 8 November we will know whether it was Amit Shah’s strategic brilliance or an electoral disaster, the blame for which both he and the PM will have to shoulder.
Amit Shah puts up strong defence of his Pak remarks
Speaking to a television channel on Friday, Amit Shah spoke at length on his recent controversial statement on Pakistan bursting crackers were the NDA to lose the Bihar elections. Putting up a point by point rebuttal on this and other controversies, Amit Shah clarified that the remark was not a communal one nor was the aim to polarize. He said that the remark was in context of anti-national forces being strengthened if NDA were to lose in Bihar. He denied having taken the name of any religion in this context.
He took on the Mahagathbandhan saying the alliance was not based on any ideology but sheer greed for power, unlike the NDA alliance where partners came together to further strengthen the BJP.
He sounded confident of NDA winning a two thirds majority and forming the next government. When asked if the result was a referendum on Modi government’s performance, he evaded the question saying that he would reply on 8 November.
EC bans two controversial BJP ads
On Friday, a delegation comprising Randeep Surjewala and Ajoy Kumar of the Congress, along with KC Tyagi of JD(U) met the CEC Nasim Zaidi and submitted a Memorandum accusing the BJP of creating communal tension in Bihar and vitiating the electoral process. The delegation called for an FIR to be filed against Amit Shah and Narendra Modi for various remarks made against the Mahagathbandhan leaders.
The Mahagathbandhan had approached the EC’s office complaining of poll code violation. On review, the EC did find the content of the two advertisements objectionable. As a result, the Chief Election Commissioner yesterday directed the Chief Electoral Officer in Bihar Ajay Naik, to ensure no further publication or distribution of the two advertisements took place.
One ad refers to Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad saying that the two were planning to ‘snatch the plates of Dalits’ – referring to quota, and giving it to one particular minority community.
The other ad refers to ‘vote ki kheti’ or vote bank politics, in a reference to the Mahagathbandhan trio protecting terrorists in order to appease the minority community.
The EC found both ads violating the Model Code of Conduct and has therefore taken action to ban further release, publication or broadcast of these ads. The delegation also referred to another ad released earlier that blamed the JD(U) government for allowing terrorists of LET and ISI to thrive in Bihar.
The delegation asked the CEC to ban Amit Shah from entering Bihar until the election process was over. They complained that he was creating communal tension and was a habitual offender, having been barred earlier by a court from entering Gujarat.