On a day, when it seemed that the BJP was struggling to identify a strategy to blunt Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Muslim-centric poll strategy with no place for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to campaign in the next polls, the JD-U brass insisted, that the party could have no truck with 'communal elements'.
JD-U state president Vijay Kumar Choudhary was specific, that an overloaded saffron campaign could stymie the chances of JD-U to cash in on some good work it has been able to showcase on the governance front. ‘The BJP would still cash on governance and its ties with JD-U’, is the feeling of the JD-U’s rank and file.
It believes, that allowing the BJP to border its campaign on the communal, would harm the party more than it could bargain for. JD-U MP, and spokesperson, Shivanand Tiwary was clear, that ‘radical elements’ were a concern for the party. "We cannot trade our goodwill by sacrificing the Muslim community whom the party has been trying to put at ease".
While the above statements cannot, but put a confused BJP onto the defensive, Nitish Kumar's political consistency in following a targeted social agenda to cultivate peripheral groups has never been in doubt. A review of the state driven agenda of the JD-U to date, would strongly suggest, Kumar's intensity in cultivating the EBC's, women and minorities besides the Kurmis and Koeris. In targeting these groups for upliftment via his high profile campaigns, Kumar has a long term strategy in place geared to weaken the hold of all parties arraigned against him. It includes the BJP.
While the social objectives prioritised in relation to the above groups negates some advantage that the RJD, Congress, LJP may have among disadvantaged castes and minorities, a quick survey of Kumar’s development strategies would also portray intensified activity in areas where the BJP has a larger vote base-the Champarans, Vaishali, Saran etc.
A combination of the socio-economic and development strategies, thus blunts the control of castes by all parties- a view reinforced in Kumar's campaign, where he has systematically targeted caste and community based politics as the ‘biggest impediment in Bihar's progress’.
While the initiatives to help the marginalised and poorer sections have gone well and the support has been evident during Kumar's Vikas and Vishwas Yatras, the one concern remains on how well these would translate into a political vote. The yatra locales also emphasized, that Kumar had targeted EBC, OBC and minority bastis more.
BJP leaders like Ashwani Choubey, the Minister for Public Health & Engineering, believes, that the weaker sections voted in larger numbers for the alliance since the BJP's mass base (mostly upper caste) was there to encourage it. Given that upper castes (more in sync with BJP) have dictated the flow of votes to some extent, despite being numerically inferior, the time taken for Kumar's development initiatives to be demonstrated and create a positive political buoyancy for his party among the disadvantaged groups would remain a concern.
If it does not crystallize at the right time, Nitish does risk falling between two stools, should the alliance with the BJP be severed. The JD-U's calculations in cutting the equation too close and on the basis of a survey, that it could win 120 seats independent of the BJP may not actually fit the future. The calculation pitches 17 percent of the Muslim votes in the total population against the 15.65 percent actually polled by the BJP in 2005 to win for itself 54 seats. This basis for a replacement is a hazardous take since the actual vote strength of any community does not cross 40 per cent.
However, given that the JD-U despite its alliance with the BJP in 2005 could draw as many votes as the RJD or the Congress may be some solace adding to the minority dominated agenda of the present regime, which could have created more space for it within the community. This is where even a marginal increase in votes of the EBC (35%), OBC's and women could count for the JD-U to take some lead in poll stakes.