Reservation, beef and price rise: Three issues came to haunt BJP in Bihar and its election campaign failed to convince voters on any of them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at his aggressive best when he questioned Nitish Kumar’s DNA at a rally in Muzaffarpur, but the chief minister was quick to turn that attack into his advantage.
Kumar’s Grand Alliance made Modi’s comment into a matter of “Bihari pride” and launched a campaign to collect hair and nails sample of the state’s people for DNA tests.
When campaigning began for elections, the going was good for the BJP. The party had taken precaution to ensure that its hot-heads did not make inflammatory statements to hurt its prospects, but it was barely able to defend itself from this Modi barb. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat then dropped a bigger bombshell with his statement on reservations and pushed the BJP on its backfoot.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, in election rally after election rally, raked up Bhagwat’s statement and played the Mandal card to perfection. “These kamandal people (saffron brigade) want to take up your right (to reservation),” Lalu kept repeating. Nitish Kumar joined the chorus later on. Union ministers, including BJP’s alliance partners, defended themselves but it made little difference. Even Kumar started asking as to why Modi was silent on Bhagwat’s statement.
Modi clarified but the damage was done.
The Prime Minister’s over-emphasis on the argument centered around threats of the “return of Jungle Raj-2” also boomeranged, as these statements consolidated the “Yadava” voters further in favor of the Grand Alliance.
The lynching of a 55-year-old Muslim man in Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh over allegations that he had consumed beef sparked national outrage, and it didn’t go unnoticed in Bihar. BJP leaders went full mouth by announcing plans to ban cow slaughter and gave provocative statements that further alienated the minorities.
The rise in prices of pulses and onions also came at the wrong time. Party leaders, including MP Shatrughan Sinha, warned the government of its impact.
Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Radha Mohan Singh offered to bring down pulse prices by 50% within two days after NDA comes to power in the state, but the Nitish Kumar government insisted the Centre was not serious on the issue.
Paswan and Singh blamed the Nitish government for rise in prices of essential commodities, including pulses. They promised to provide arahar at Rs 100/kg against the prevailing rate of Rs 200/kg within two days of NDA coming to power in Bihar.
The NDA alliance also appears to have been done in by lack of coordination and infighting in its ranks. Campaign strategies focused on the Prime Minister and BJP president Amit Shah and left local party leaders and workers unhappy, BJP sources said.