The Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping to gain a lead over the ‘grand alliance’ in the third round of voting in Bihar on Wednesday that will cover 50 assembly seats across six districts. With campaigning for this phase ending on Monday, BJP’s internal assessment hints at significant gains for it for at least two reasons.
First, the state’s urban pockets, including capital Patna, go to the polls in this phase and they are considered a BJP stronghold where it has a well-entrenched organisational network. Second, these 50 seats have a considerable presence of upper castes and sections of Dalits who are believed to be largely voting for the NDA.
The extremely backward castes would be influential in some of the districts and Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to woo them on Monday with the promise that “rights (reservation) given by Baba Saheb Ambedkar will never be taken by my government”. Modi also said he comes from an extremely backward class and understands the pain of being born to a poor woman.
JD(U) leaders are confidant of retaining the ground in Nalanda district, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s pocket borough, where the government has made significant investments during its 10 years of rule.
The BJP’s assessment gives an edge to Nitish in Nalanda but expects to win handsomely in Patna, Bhojpur, Buxar and even Saran, all with significant upper caste populations. Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan have their horns locked in Vaishali, which has a substantial number of Yadavs and Paswans.
“We will do extremely well in these coming phases. Even our performance in the previous two phases surpasses our expectation,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told HT. The BJP held only 22 of the 81 seats for which polling is over in the first two phases.
Of the 50 seats going to polls on Wednesday, the BJP holds 20 while 22 are with the JD(U) and eight with the RJD. Winning 30 seats will be a tough challenge for the grand alliance. It, however, remains confident.