The high-stake battle for Bihar has entered the second phase with campaigning for 32 assembly constituencies spread across six district coming to an end on Wednesday evening with both the BJP-led NDA and grand alliance sharpening their attacks on each other over sting operation of a minister and PM Narendra Modi’s delayed reaction on Dadri lynching case. The polls are scheduled on October 16.
The sting video of a senior minister Awadhesh Prasad Kushwaha provided the BJP-led NDA with fresh ammunition to attack the grand secular alliance on corruption during the electioneering for the second phase of the 5-phase polls. The “bribery video” was also raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his rallies in Jehanabad and Bhubua on October 12, a day after the video surfaced on the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan. He attacked chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, products of JP’s ‘Total Revolution’ movement, for “insulting” JP, who fought against corruption.
On the contrary, Nitish and Lalu attacked Narendra Modi for his “delayed” reaction to the Dadri lynching incident. In an interview to a media house, the PM had termed the Dadri episode as “unfortunate” incident following rumours of beef consumption.
The second phase is crucial for the grand alliance as the JD(U)-RJD combine had won 21 out of 32 seats in 2010. The BJP, banking on its alliance with the party of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, would be looking to improve upon its tally of nine in 2010.
While the future of the secular alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar hinges on this phase, the NDA needs the numbers for more seats in the Rajya Sabha that would help it push its reforms agenda.
The fate of several stalwarts will be decided in this phase. They include Manjhi of HAM-S (contesting from Makhdumpur and Imamganj), assembly speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary of JD-U (Imamganj), BJP’s chief minister post aspirant Prem Kumar (Gaya Town), former RJD minister Illiyas Hussain (Dehri), former BJP state president Gopal Natrayan Singh (Nabinagar), Santosh Kumar Suman (Manjhi’s son from Kutumba) and Mundrika Singh Yadav of RJD (Jehanabad).
Yadav was one of grand alliance candidates caught on camera taking bribe a few days ago.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a series of rallies with Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad matching him in the intense campaign so far. All the parties in the fray have focused on development in the backward state, but have not shied away from caste and communal politics. But big names from Congress were conspicuous by their absence.
The campaigning for the second phase was made interesting by the appearance of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati.
The poll arithmetic
# Win in Bihar will give the BJP more seats in the Rajya Sabha, making it easier to pass key reformist legislation such as the controversial Goods and Services Tax bill stuck because the ruling alliance doesn’t have the numbers in the upper house
# Loss in Bihar, on the other hand, will give the opposition an upper hand and may foment dissent in the party against Modi, who began to look less invincible after the BJP’s spectacular defeat in the Delhi assembly election in February
# Survival battle for Nitish Kumar whose development-driven popularity in the state has been dented by his decision to join hands with Lalu Yadav, who critics say ran a “jungle raj” in the 15 years he and his wife were in power
# For Lalu Prasad, it’s a question of political rehabilitation and continuance of family in politics while maintaining some relevance
Full coverage: Battle for Bihar