Message to be conveyed quietly lest party offend upper castes

In a campaign strategy, the Bharatiya Janata Party will use Narendra Modi’s Other Backward Class identity as a key plank in north Bihar. But this will be done in a quiet and private manner, say party activists.

A senior leader from the region, who insisted on anonymity, told The Hindu: “Look, each social constituency is being targeted specifically.” He said the BJP’s message to both Yadavs and the OBCs would be simple. “For the first time, the country can see a pichda (backward) as Prime Minister. Why is Nitishji opposing a backward as Prime Minister? Can only Brahmins become Prime Ministers?”

This message will be conveyed at streetcorner meetings in backward class-dominated villages and by “word of mouth,” so as to prevent alienation among upper castes. “To the upper castes, our message is, Nitish Kumar betrayed us and disturbed a rock-solid alliance. As for the Yadavs, we are playing on their constant tensions with Muslims.” To the poor across communities, the point is whether they want to be lifted out of poverty “as in Gujarat.”

Mushafir Yadav, a Madhubani BJP activist, said: “Narendra Modi has three special features. He does what he says. He talks about general masses, not only about any caste. And he taps into the Hinduwaadi sentiment. Only he can defend Hindutva.” But if the BJP plays up Mr. Modi’s caste card, the two other elements — his being above narrow divisions and a defender of the broader religion — will get diluted.

‘Silent killer’

The BJP’s Darbhanga MP, Kirti Azad, claimed: “Like conjunctivitis, Namoinitis is a silent killer for pseudo-secularists. It has spread far and wide.”

The party’s reliance on the Modi brand is visible across districts and villages of north Bihar. The Hunkar rally, which Mr. Modi will address in Patna on October 27, is being publicised on an unprecedented scale, with huge resources being spent on travel and logistics.

A BJP ward councillor says: “Many of our MPs are unpopular and will not make it this time. It is a gamble. Let us see if the Modi card works.”

As the strategy unfolds, it is clear there is no one Modi card but different cards for different groups.

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