It’s past midnight in this sleepy district town but one nondescript lodge tucked away in the bylanes is humming with activity. Once the intellectual hub of north Bihar, Madhubani has for a night become the centre of gravity of the BJP poll campaign, for party president Amit Shah is here.
Also camped here for the night is Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Shah and Prasad are discussing poll strategy with Bihar MPs Hukum Narayan Yadav and Birendra Chaudhary as well the party’s entire district leadership. On their mind is the last phase of the election, scheduled for November 5.
From the big picture of the election campaign to micro-management issues of booth management and vehicle distribution, everything is on the table. It looks the Amit Shah 2014 Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha campaign all over again.
“I have already inducted 146 groups of fresh election workers for the fifth phase with MLAs, state ministers, workers from Uttarakhand and Rajasthan working in Seemanchal for the past three months. I am supremely confident that NDA will form the next government as some three crore eighty lakh voters from total six-crore plus Bihar voters are in the 18-40 age group. It is this group which will vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda. The NDA should cross the Bihar assembly majority mark after the fourth phase,” Shah says.
The NDA’s prime foe is the Grand Alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar. And they claim victory already too.
Shah underlines his claims with names and numbers. “I have already done night halts in 23 district headquarters and have been in Bihar for the past 50 days monitoring the campaign that began in January this year. Union Minister and election in-charge Anant Kumar has been camping in the state for past three months. Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Dharmendra Pradhan, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, party general secretaries Bhupendra Yadav and Kailash Vijayvargiya are all in the field,” he says. That’s not counting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Uma Bharati, filmstar-turned-MP Hema Malini, and action hero Ajay Devgan. “BJP leaders cover over three lakh voters through election rallies everyday, and this is besides the lakh-plus crowds that PM Modi draws at his meetings. I personally address four to five meetings in a day and cover over 70,000 people,” says Shah.
Shah wants at least eight of the 10 seats in the Madhubani region. “If India has to achieve double-digit growth rates, then Bihar has to pursue a development path. Thanks to 25 years of Nitish-Lalu rule, the state has sunk to abysmal depths. Bihar is also important to BJP as it opens the eastern part of India to our ideology,” says Shah.
He hasn’t forgotten Bihar’s caste and religion arithmetic. Meeting 150-odd BJP workers from backward, extremely backward, Dalit and Mahadalit communities, Shah emphasises that consolidation of this vote chunk will help the party. He pumps up the workers with Modi’s example, saying he comes from an extremely backward community and has reached the top after selling tea at railway stations.
The BJP remains conscious of the fact that women largely voted for JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar in the 2010 Assembly elections, but Shah is confident that this section will swing to the BJP because of the Lalu factor. “Women suffered the most from 15 years of jungle raj of Lalu,” Shah explains.
Contrary to the perception that allies Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Manjhi are hurting the party rather than helping it, Shah says the two backward leaders are really transferring their caste votes en masse to the BJP. “The BJP is also totally supporting the candidates of its NDA allies. We will ensure that the NDA minority candidate from Darbhanga rural will win and add to our numbers,” says Shah.
It’s 4 am already, and Shah and Prasad end their 18-hour day with a quick of review of preparations for Prime Minister Modi’s rally in Madhubani on November 1. Shah has a helicopter to take at 10 am; Katihar is his next night stop.