The controversial photo of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi raising their clasped hands will be aggressively used by the Congress in its campaign for the forthcoming assembly elections in the state.
The Gujarat connection will not end there and photos could become a major talking point in the Bihar polls as the Congress is planning to capitalise on the now famous picture of Qutubuddin Ansari pleading for mercy with folded hands which became the media’s "face of the 2002 Gujarat riots".
The message, according to a party functionary associated with the publicity for Bihar polls due in October-November this year, will be simple. “Hum Bihar ke yuva ko Qutubuddin Ansari nahi banne denge (We will not allow Bihar’s youth to become Qutubuddin Ansari),” he said.
However, a final call on using Ansari’s picture for the ad campaign in Bihar polls would be taken during the two-day meeting of the Congress’ publicity committee at the party’s re-activated “war room” at 15, Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road, beginning Monday.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is personally monitoring the poll preparations since it was he who had advocated the go it alone strategy in Bihar where the party has only 10 legislators in the 243-member assembly.
The party – that has been out of power in Bihar for the past two decades now – is firm on “exposing Kumar’s secular credentials” in the elections in a bid to win over Muslims who constitute 17 per cent of the state’s total population.
“Nitish ka dogla chehra logon ko dikhana hai (Nitish’s double face has to be exposed),” another leader said.
Kumar’s recent anti-Modi stand has given the Congress enough fodder to target the Bihar chief minister and exploit the simmering tension between the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state after the June 12 Modi photo episode and the subsequent return of the Kosi flood relief money to the Gujarat government.
But Congress managers believe that it was “mere posturing” on the part of Kumar because he continues to be in alliance with the BJP and in fact it might have been a strategy to prevent the Muslims from gravitating towards the Congress.
They are also buoyed by the clash between the supporters of the JD(U) and the BJP in Patna during the July 5 Bharat bandh.
This is perhaps for the first time that the Congress has been so aggressive against Kumar and the move is being seen as a major shift in party’s stand against him.
For the Congress strategists, former allies Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party have been reduced to “mere paper tigers” in Bihar’s political scene. “They are already a demoralised lot. We don’t need to work much on them,” a Congress leader said.
Besides the minority community, the party is planning a massive campaign to woo the upper castes, especially the Brahmins and the Rajputs, and the scheduled castes and the backward castes as well.