Bihar became a theme that cut through the political discourse on the concluding day of the BJP’s national executive meet in Patna.
The party applied balm, albeit in a nuanced manner, to the hurt feelings of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who made clear on Saturday that he could do without the BJP’s support in the forthcoming assembly elections.
However, there was a note of bravado also. “We are not going to compromise on self-respect,” party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a politician from Bihar, told reporters earlier during the day.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari said in his maiden speech in Patna: “We can never forget the ideals of Jayaprakash Narain (JP), who had given the nation the slogan of total revolution. I assure the people of Bihar that we will continue to strive till the dream of JP is realised.” JP was instrumental in dislodging the Congress government at the Centre in 1977.
The BJP leadership left no one in doubt that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was going to be the face of the party.
If Modi campaigns in Bihar in the assembly polls, it will be his first appearance in the state. During the 2005 polls, Nitish Kumar is believed to have prevailed upon the BJP leadership to keep Modi away for fear of alienating Muslim voters.
Modi’s appearance can mark a policy shift for the BJP, which had indicated in the run-up to its national executive meeting that Nitish Kumar would be its front man for the campaign.
In his speech, Modi did not refer to Nitish Kumar by name. Nor did most of the other main speakers — Gadkari, Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha leader of the opposition) and Sushma Swaraj (Lok Sabha leader of the opposition).
However, senior leader L K Advani made a passing reference. Instead, Modi congratulated Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi on Bihar’s turnaround.
After Nitish Kumar cancelled the dinner he was to host for the BJP’s national executive members on Saturday, the leaders had to make do with a “plain, simple and tasty” repast.