As BJP’s election campaign committee chief, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is set to ‘debut’ in the electorally crucial state of Bihar at his party’s ‘hunkar rally’ in Patna on October 27.
But ahead of what the BJP hopes will be his ‘grand entry’ into the domain of his arch rival Nitish Kumar, Modi is already registering his presence in Bihar through some unexpected support for his likely PM bid.
A day after the Bihar BJP adopted a resolution in Gaya demanding Modi be declared the party’s prime ministerial nominee, it found unequivocally backing from two ex-MPs of the JD (U), who have fallen out with Nitish.
Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) leaders Upendra Kushwaha and Arun Kumar declared, Sunday, the BJP decision was in “national interest” and enjoyed their “full backing”.
“Those opposing the BJP move on Modi are effectively opposing the rise of an extremely backward class leader (a reference to Modi’s caste credential)”, the two leaders told HT.
Kushwaha was a JD (U) Rajya Sabha MP till he resigned his seat in January this year after falling out with Nitish. Making common cause against the Bihar CM, he and Arun Kumar floated RLSP in March.
“As individuals, the two may not be so significant. But their backing for Modi suggests some kind of coming together of anti-Nitish forces. This process needs to be watched closely”, said a top JD (U) leader.
This assessment appeared well grounded as sitting JD (U) Lok Sabha MPs Jainarain Nishad (Muzaffarpur) and Purnmasi Ram (Gopalganj) met Modi confidant Parshottam Rupala in New Delhi last Tuesday.
Rupala, a Rajya Sabha MP, later told HT support for Modi among non-BJP MPs from Bihar was growing. “A process has been set off but there is nothing definitive so far”, he said.
Both Nishad and Ram are, as one JD (U) leader put it, ‘compulsive rebels’. Nishad has represented the RJD, the BJP and the JD (U) in one or the other house of parliament, over a period of time.
He was in the news a few months ago when a ‘havan’ was held at his New Delhi residence to ‘line up the support of the gods’ for Modi’s PM bid. Later, in a turnaround, he expressed his preference for LK Advani for the PM’s post.
Ram was at loggerheads with the JD (U) leadership during the 2010 Bihar assembly poll over the candidature of his son, Vijay Kumar, who finally contested the poll as an RJD candidate.
“I have decided to contest the next LS poll from two constituencies, Gopalganj and Valmikinagar. I don’t particularly care which party gives me tickets for these seats”, Ram told HT soon after meeting Rupala.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s estranged brother in law Anirudh Prasad aka Sadhu Yadav’s meeting with Modi in Ahmedabad last week and Yadav’s support for his likely PM call, also enabled him to grab Bihar political space.
Such forays of Modi come in a state which sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha. They are also significant for the fact that Nitish had broken ties with the BJP, on June 16, citing Modi’s elevation as BJP campaign chief.
A figure critical to Modi’s hopes of making inroads into Nitish’s territory is yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who enjoys decent following in this state, including among Yadavs who constitute 12% of its population.
“On Baba’s call, we have decided to back Narendrabhai with all our strength”, said RJD MLC Naval Kishore Yadav, a known follower of the yoga exponent.
He said there were many others like him – people who had no affinity for the BJP but who, for one reason or another, were inclined to support Modi.