Making his presence felt
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday made his grand entrance into the Bihar assembly poll fray. Addressing a massive political rally at Muzzafarpur, Modi promised to change the face of Bihar in just seven months if the Bharatiya Janata Party is voted to power in the Bihar Assembly elections. In addition, the Centre will sanction more than the Rs 50,000-crore economic package, according to Modi. The Prime Minister, however, did not say when the special package for the state would be announced. On the ruling the Janata Dal (United), led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Modi’s line of attack was rather predictable. Modi focussed his attack on Nitish Kumar, accusing him of “back-stabbing” the people of the state, since he has not fulfilled the promise he made to provide electricity to every household in the state. Modi also targeted Kumar for allying with the RJD, saying he was trying to drag the state back to ‘jungle raj’, and asked the voters to reject such people as they “cannot be trusted” again and elect the NDA with a two-thirds majority for changing Bihar’s fate. The PM dubbed RJD “Rojana Jungleraj ka Darr” (the fear of jungle governance every day) and appealed to the people to give the NDA a complete majority in the upcoming assembly polls. Also seeking to play the Dalit card, he said that Nitish had practiced “political untouchability” not only towards him but also towards “Mahadalit” former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, an erstwhile JD (U) leader who has since joined the NDA. According to certain political commentators, Mahadalits have emerged as the focal point of a new form of caste mobilisation in Bihar. No doubt, the OBC continues to have a significant place in the political system. However, there is little doubt that the Mahadalits have raised their political clout in the state.
The assembly elections in Bihar, slated for later this year, is probably the biggest test the BJP will face in a full-fledged State since the 2014 general elections. Infighting in the Bihar BJP unit, however, has not helped matters. In the past senior BJP leaders like Shatrughan Sinha, CP Thakur and Ram Naresh Chaurasia, among others, have voiced their opposition about former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi being propped up as the front-runner for the chief minister’s post. Sinha took his grouse one step further on Saturday when he met Nitish Kumar. After the meeting, Sinha described Nitish as the “guardian of the state” and the best chief minister the state has ever seen. Such remarks will create further ripples in the party, since it was only hours ago that Modi was heard lambasting the current Bihar chief minister. In the assembly elections since the events of May 2014, the BJP-led alliances have comfortably formed governments in states like Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand. However, certain political commentators have observed that the BJP’s victory in these three states came down to a disparate opposition. In Jharkhand, for example, erstwhile alliance partners like the Congress and JMM, fought the elections separately. In Bihar, however, the BJP will face a united opposition in the form of the RJD, JD(U) and the Congress party. It’s a long ahead for Prime Minister Modi and the BJP.