Even as the campaign for the first phase of Bihar polls is set to end on October 19, allies JD(U) and BJP, have not yet decided on a joint campaign.
This has fuelled speculations that Chief Minsiter Nitish Kumar would not like to share the dais with top BJP leaders, particularly L.K. Advani, for fear of losing Muslim votes to arch-rival Lalu Prasad in the wake of the Ayodhya judgment.
The BJP, on its part is trying to stick to “development” as the poll theme for fear of sending Muslims to the RJD-LJP camp, thereby giving Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan the advantage of a numerically strong Muslim (15 per cent).
Sources say, Advani is going to skip the first phase of polls —many constituencies with heavy Muslim populations.
BJP leaders see Rahul Gandhi’s attack on Kumar’s secular credentials in Katihar as a deliberate attempt at weaning Muslim votes away from Kumar.
But the BJP has redefined joint campaign to nip uncomfortable questions in the bud. “The BJP believes that joint campaign means that BJP leaders go to JD(U) constituencies and vice versa,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
Asked whether top leaders of the two parties would share the dais, he said: “saath kee yojana aage banegi (decision on joint campaign will be made later).” NDA ads will, however, start appearing in the media within two days.
Interestingly, while the BJP has in the past sung praises of Narendra Modi’s Gujarat as a model state in terms of development, party president Nitin Gadkari highlighted Punjab and, ironically, Congress-ruled Haryana, as models Bihar should emulate in a public meeting in Madhubani on Wednesday. It is being seen as an attempt to avoid all reference to Gujarat, and even the controversy-tainted Karnataka.
Kumar had reacted angrily to Gujarat government ads showing him holding hands with Modi at the BJP national executive and had suggested that Modi and Varun Gandhi be kept out of the campaign.