In the keenly-contested assembly elections in Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar has taken the lead in the battle to defeat the opposing National Democratic Alliance (NDA), despite his Janata Dal(United) JD(U) party being in a Grand Alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Ever since the polls were announced, Kumar has been taking off daily for the campaign from the state capital in one of the helicopters hired by his party, taking along leaders according to the social configuration of the area he is scheduled to visit.
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, state unit chief Bashishtha Narayan Singh and party MP Ali Anwar have also been travelling separately to canvass for party candidates.
Kumar’s strategy has been to focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his direct rival and pitch the polls as a straight fight between a CM and a PM.
He has deliberately tried to build up the “insider versus outsider” debate and cash in on the issue of ‘Bihari pride versus humiliation’ to counter the saffron party’s development agenda. “Who will bring development to Bihar, a Bihari or an outsider? I am a son of Bihar and know what ails the state. An outsider (Modi) cannot understand what people of Bihar need,” he said.
He has tried to shift the poll debate to the Modi government’s performance in the last 17 months in a bid to divert people’s attention from NDA’s attack on the 15-year Lalu-Rabri regime.
“This strategy will work as the Modi government has been facing flak for its failure on black money, jobs to youth and minimum support price for farmers,” says state JD(U) leader Nehora Prasad Yadav.
Kumar’s focus on development is derived from BJP’s jibe that the performance of his government deteriorated after it parted ways with JD(U). Recently, a study undertaken by Public Policy Research Centre has said that development became a casualty of BJP’s divorce from JD(U).
The centre is a BJP think-thank headed by party vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.
Kumar claims that any comparison of annual growth rate to show that development in Bihar has suffered after the split with the BJP is a “myopic view” through selective data.
Nitish has tried to leave it to Lalu Prasad to highlight the “Mandal issue”.