The announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday on the hefty development package for Bihar, in the heat of the campaign for the assembly elections, might have given some boost to the morale of BJP cadres, but it may not finally bring enough dividends for the BJP led alliance in the crucial poll in October this year. Nitish Kumar has already won the battle of the Bihari minds against the PM and he will very well take the credit for forcing the PM to make the announcement which the Centre has been dillydallying for the last few months. Nitish Kumar is taking full advantage of the PM’s remarks made at the earlier meeting against him for his DNA which has angered the common Biharis.
CM Nitish Kumar is not clear whether it was faux pass or a deliberate move by Narendra Modi to embarrass him, but one thing is absolutely explicit that his recent remark that Bihar was a “Bimaru” state is not endorsed by the social and economic indices. He was politically and economically not correct. It was in 1980 that undivided Bihar, along with Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh were described as “Bimaru” states to underline the backwardness of these states. But this terminology has turned invalid in present days. Incidentally, addressing a public meeting in Gaya, Modi had said that if the BJP-led NDA won the coming assembly elections, Bihar would rid itself of that adjective. He had said; “We will take Bihar out the Bimaru tag in the next five years by economic development like in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan”.
Over the years, the list of “Bimaru” states itself has become infructuous with the member states moving upwards. Bihar’s growth rate, performance on social indices like education and health care present a picture which does not show it in a laggard state. He should have his facts right. Nitish correctly pointed out that the matter of fact was Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan got out of the “Bimaru” club, when the country was ruled by UPA, the Congress government. He said Modi had, in a way, threatened people by asking them to vote for the BJP if they desired help from the central government. “What kind of cooperative federalism is this?”
Before this, Modi had derided him by saying that Nitish’s DNA was faulty. May be he had meant the political implication. But the manner in which he used the phrase simply manifested his personal anger against Nitish. He was angry with Nitish for denying him dinner in 2010. Since at that time he did not have command over the BJP, the national leaders or the Bihar BJP leaders refrained from quitting the coalition government they were running with Nitish. If this really was a sensitive issue, Modi should have forced them to leave the company of Nitish and launch a crusade against him. But after 2014 Lok Sabha elections, once he got control over the party apparatus, he has been pursuing the politics of revenge.
Obviously in this backdrop, how far Modi’s remark of Bihar being a “Bimaru” state is politically correct is a big question mark. While Nitish has criticised Modi for insulting Bihar, the prime minister’s stance is not even endorsed by Bihari intellectuals and academics. They feel that it was again an example of Modi’s style of generalising the issues. They feel that instead of coming out with a cursory remark, Modi should have gone deeper into the matter. This does not behove to the stature of the person holding the office of the prime minister. Peeved at this, Nitish described the BJP as ‘Badka Jhootha Party’ after Modi called Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) as the “Janata ka daman aur utpidan” party.
Modi’s speech at his two public rallies, one in Muzaffarpur and another in Gaya, before the latest in Ara, reinforces the belief that he has lost his Midas touch. His jibes at Nitish might have enthused and energised the BJP rank and file, but it has not succeeded in motivating the common people. Realising the intensity of the peoples’ averseness, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has stepped into the electoral arena and taken charge.
The pracharaks of the RSS have been entrusted with the task of contacting people at the base level, create atmosphere that BJP was coming to power and work out electoral strategy based on the specific needs of the particular area. The nature and content of campaign will differ from area to area.
Amit Shah is taking help of some technical experts to steer the campaign, but the RSS leadership is confident that their indigenous style of word-of-mouth campaigning, which is the trait and recognition of the Sangh will yield the desired result.
Since Nitish does not have a strong band of trained cadres, he has to depend on his hired technocrats and media experts. At the advice of his think tank, Nitish has been creating euphoria on the issue of DNA and Modi’s vow to keep Bihar out of “Bimaru” list if BJP is voted to power. One aspect of the campaigning is quite revealing that instead of setting agenda or forcing Modi to counter his charges, Nitish has been retorting to the charges and allegations levelled by Modi against Nitish. The JD(U) leaders feel this is the best strategy during the current phase of campaigning. Nitish will turn assertive and start setting an agenda just ahead of the D-day. He is preserving his ammunition for the rainy days.
Just after Modi’s Bimaru barb, Nitish termed the BJP as ‘Bada Jhootha Party’, and said Bihar “is not a Bimaru state” as described by the PM. Refuting Modi’s charge that “there has been no development in Bihar for 25 years”, he said, “It is good that the BJP has dissociated itself from Bihar’s development”. In his haste to malign Nitish, the prime minister even forgot the fact that the BJP had ruled the state for nearly 8 years, out of 25 years as Modi mentioned, along with Nitish. This simply reflected Modi’s desperation.
There’s little doubt that the prime minister’s speech is unbecoming of the post he holds. It is also clear that the caste element would appear to be playing a decisive role, but otherwise the fact is that, in this election, development would be the key factor. For the first time, caste will be viewed in the framework of development and growth. Nitish knows that simply playing the caste card would not ultimately benefit him and he is going the whole hog to project himself as the builder of a resurgent Bihar. For the BJP led alliance, that is the real threat. (IPA Service)