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Why Bihar matters in the 2014 elections number game

Hindustan Times   October 29, 2013
First Published: 01:07 IST(29/10/2013) | Last Updated: 02:05 IST(29/10/2013)

This was a rally that had been planned right down to the last detail for months. And even the horrific bomb blasts did not deter the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from addressing a crowd the likes of which has rarely been seen in Bihar.

On the face of it, the mega rally and the tub-thumping by Mr Modi was one in the eye for Nitish Kumar, the JD(U) chief who broke his lengthy alliance with the saffron party when it became more or less clear that Mr Modi would be the face of the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

But beyond settling scores with Mr Kumar, the choice of Bihar for this mother of all rallies is not without significance.

While popular wisdom suggests that he who wins in Uttar Pradesh will rule in Delhi, for the BJP, getting the numbers in UP is going to be tough. It will have to jostle for space with the BSP, which has a considerable vote share even though it got a drubbing in the assembly elections, the ruling Samajwadi Party and a rump of the Congress.

But in Bihar, the BJP senses an opportunity to target the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s vote-share which is not all that much less than that of the ruling JD(U). The RJD chief is behind bars and while his wife is now running the party with his sons, there is no dispute that it is directionless and not the force it once was.

Besides, the rustic and witty style of politics that had once made Lalu Prasad so adored has more or less run its course. Mr Modi made a careful pitch to the RJD vote-bank when he uncharacteristically spoke of how poor Muslims and Hindus should join hands to fight poverty and not each other. Mr Kumar is also facing an anti-incumbency factor.

The fact that bomb blasts took place at a time when Mr Modi was to address a rally gives the BJP a handle to beat Mr Kumar with. Bihar sends 40 MPs to Parliament. The BJP is obviously hoping to pick up the numbers here to get it closer to the figure that will attract the allies.

The turnout at the rally also suggests that the BJP’s rank and file in the state have been galvanised once again at the prospect of power at the Centre.

The only discordant factor in the rally perhaps was the absence of central leaders like Sushma Swaraj and LK Advani. Many political observers wondered why the two stayed away from a rally of such great political significance despite the recent shows of bonhomie.

But despite this, as a far as political calculations go, the rally was very much a step in the right direction for the party.

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