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Bihar rally: Parties united against PM, but stick to their own agenda

analysis Updated: Aug 31, 2015 01:05 IST
Rai Atul Krishna
Rai Atul Krishna
Hindustan Times

Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad during the Swabhiman rally at Gandhi Maidan, in Patna. (PTI Photo)

It had been termed as the 'Swabhiman' rally of the anti-BJP coalition in Bihar, comprising chief minister Nitish Kumar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress.

Its importance, underscored by the presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, lay as much in emphasizing the unity of the three parties as in the their shared need to stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi in quick succession after BJP's defeat in Delhi assembly poll in February.

Yet, despite the shared thrust of the need to stop Modi in the Bihar assembly poll in October, the speeches of the top three leaders were remarkable for their differences in emphasis - representing the main issues on which each party is fighting this election.

Gandhi mainly attacked Modi on national level issues - his 'failure' to provide jobs to the youth, his 'anti-farmer' land bill, which he is now set to withdraw under Opposition from the Congress and the 'communal' agenda of the ruling BJP.

Amid this emphasis, she also spoke of the progress Bihar had made under Kumar's leadership with 'contribution' from Prasad.

The latter part of Gandhi's statement sounded like an attempt to 'mollify' Prasad considering Prasad has never been part of the Kumar government and has not held the levers of power in Bihar since 2005, when his party lost the assembly election.

Prasad has been cut up with the Congress since Kumar met party vice-president Rahul Gandhi in July and they 'agreed' to contest the assembly poll together. This 'unspoken' tie-up put pressure on a reluctant Lalu to accept Kumar as the alliance's CM face.

Those who have been watching Prasad over several years were inclined to spot certain 'aloofness' in the RJD chief's body language towards the Congress president, on the rally dais. "There was a time he was almost deferential towards her", a supporter recalled.

Read:With one-liners, Lalu turns biggest crowd-puller at Swabhiman rally

Chief minister Kumar's emphasis was to play up the Bihari pride by seeking to make an issue out of PM Modi's remark (at his Muzaffarpur rally on July 25) challenging the 'Bihari DNA' by questioning Kumar's (political) DNA.

This apart, Kumar's speech dwelt on the development he had ushered in and promise of more, how his ties with Prasad did not imply advent of 'jungle raj-2' as alleged by the BJP, how Modi had been brought "to his knees" on land bill and how every section of Bihar had a shared stake in his continuance in office.

In short, it was an 'essentially Nitish' kind of performance.

Unlike Kumar's appeal to all sections, Prasad's emphasis was to forge an electoral unity between the 'depressed' classes, OBCs, Muslims and dalits, which had worked very for him during the years he ruled Bihar (1990-2005), directly, or through his wife Rabri Devi.

He talked of how the BJP feared not 'jungle raj-2' but 'Mandal raj-2', a reference to his advocacy of increasing the job quota of OBCs, based on the findings of the yet to be revealed caste census, which he expects to reveal a higher OBC population.

Read:Modi govt has done nothing, says Sonia; Nitish attacks PM too

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