In his bid to keep the BJP in the reckoning in the remaining four phases in Bihar, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has apparently changed his strategy.
Pulling out all stops, Mr. Modi is seeking to cash in on his charisma to ensure a never-before performance in Bihar which will be crucial to the party. Anything less than 20 seats out of 40 from the State could jeopardise the chances of reaching the half-way figure of 272.
Though Mr. Modi succeeded in largely ironing out differences over distribution of tickets, tying up the loose ends that cropped up in the aftermath of the party’s split with the JD(U) is posing fresh challenges. It is clear from his campaigning that Mr. Modi is visiting constituencies where the BJP has a battle on his hands.
He addressed rallies in the reserved constituency of Sasaram where BJP candidate Chedi Paswan takes on Congress candidate and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, backed by the RJD. The JD(U) has made the contest triangular here.
His other rally was in Nawada for bolstering the chances of Giriraj Singh, also locked in a triangular contest with two strong candidates of the RJD and the JD(U).
Out of the seven seats in the second phase elections, the BJP prime ministerial candidate focused on three of them — Jehanabad, Ara and Pataliputra which witnessed a battle between RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Ram Kripal Yadav of the BJP.
Similarly, for the third phase voting in seven constituencies on April 24, he has visited four constituencies — Bhagalpur, Araria, Katihar and Supaul. The talking point was whether his rally in Bhagalpur measured up to the one addressed earlier by the RJD chief Lalu Prasad in the same ground.
Mr. Modi’s Jehanabad rally too was far from impressive. The presence of women and weaker sections are apparently negligible at the public meetings which are usually held in the heart of town, playing to the party’s base among urban voters.
His visits have resulted in the resurgence of the Muslim-Yadav combination to the apparent disadvantage of the BJP. Political pundits were quick to underscore that Mr. Modi said nothing against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in his Bhagalpur speech as part of his revised tactics. The BJP’s objective seemingly is not to push Mr. Kumar to the periphery as that appeared to be benefiting the RJD-Congress combine.
With Muslims coming out openly in favour of the RJD-Congress, the combine is also emerging as the new option for the extremely backward castes and the Dalits, particularly the Maha Dalits, which were once with Mr. Kumar. While LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan has been able to call the shots among his community (Dussadhs), he has little impact on the Maha Dalit voters.
Moreover, the upper caste candidates of both the JD(U) and the RJD-Congress combine are able to corner a share of votes of their community, unlike the BJP which has not been able to make much dent in the Kurmi or Yadav votes.