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Home / India News / 70% of BJP’s poll campaign will be physical: Sushil Modi

70% of BJP’s poll campaign will be physical: Sushil Modi

Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has welcomed the Election Commission’s decision to proceed with the assembly polls due to take place in the eastern state later this year even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

india Updated: Sep 02, 2020 05:03 IST
Sunetra Choudhury
Sunetra Choudhury
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi
Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi (File photo)

Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi has welcomed the Election Commission’s decision to proceed with the assembly polls due to take place in the eastern state later this year even amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Modi, who belongs to the Bharatiyas Janata Party (BJP), also said there was no sense of panic in Bihar ad claimed that the ruling Janata Dal (United), BJP and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) coalition will win a three-fourths majority. Edited excerpts:

There are going to be polls in Bihar in the middle of a pandemic, which is an unprecedented situation. How will this election be different for you?

Yes, it is a very different election. To conduct it with all the Covid restrictions is a challenge but no one knows how long the pandemic will stay. We know the floods will end by September and we would know how long a drought lasts, but with this pandemic, we don’t know if it’s here for another six months or two years. So a democratic process cannot be stopped. Polls have been conducted in 34 countries across the world. So even though it will be very difficult, there is no other option but to conduct them. I think the Election commission has taken the right decision.

But a lot of countries opened up after Covid numbers started going down. In India, the numbers are still rising and now the daily case figures are the highest in the world. One of your own allies, Chirag Paswan (of the LJP), has also joined the opposition in demanding that the polls are deferred. What if the polls spread the disease?

It is for the EC to decide, firstly. Number 2, now there is no panic in Bihar. Now Bihar is also Number 1 in testing ( testing more than 100,000 patients a day). Most of the hospitals are empty, AIIMS {All India Institute of Medical Sciences}, Patna, which was filled in the first week of August, is now 70% empty. So now people are also used to tackling Covid and the kind of scare that was there before is no longer there. Eight percent of patients are in home quarantine, which is the best option. Only 5% of patients need ventilator support. So there is a big difference from before.

As campaigning begins, how much will the BJP rely on physical campaigning?

More than 70% will be physical campaigning. Even earlier, the Bihar campaign was very different from {that in} other states. There are three kinds of campaigning. The big rallies by hiring helicopters will no longer be there. The ones that attract 40,000-50,000 or 1 lakh crowds, will not be there. Door-to-door was the most effective campaign because all voters don’t attend meetings. Earlier and this time as well, there is no bar on door-to-door meetings. When I was fighting the Bhagalpur election, I only organised {LK} Advaniji’s meeting and no other meeting. These meetings don’t fetch votes. In the last assembly elections, Narendra Modiji had more than 30 meetings and we only won 53 seats. So instead of these meetings, door-to-door campaigns and road shows work. Anyway, in the last moment of an exam, what you do doesn’t matter, what matters is what we have done in the last 4.5 years. Big manifesto and promises doesn’t make a difference, voters normally make up their minds earlier.

Today is the day that the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) is starting and the opposition has pointed out that it shouldn’t have taken place because of not just Covid but also because of floods. The fact that the exams are going ahead -- will there be anger in the community? Will that be a factor in the polls?

It is not going to be a factor as most students are happy with the exams. Imagine, the number of students appearing would be double and the seats would be the same. There is no problem in Bihar as the floods are in remote areas, but the {exam} centres are mostly in district headquarters. Students preparing for exams are either in block headquarters or district headquarters and there is no problem in any of the blocks or districts. I have not seen a single demonstration with more than 100 people and most of them are political workers. Have you seen any student participating in those? Media is showing 10 people standing with placards, don’t know who they are.

What about migrants? So many have had to come back to their villages jobless, some of them walking back. Won’t it be a factor?

People know that it’s not the government’s fault, they are intelligent enough. MIgrants came back to Bihar, more than 21 lakh migrants of the state used the free train service and didn’t have to pay. And when they reached their home, they were so happy. And now when Narendra Modi announced free ration, they have five months of food in their home and so they are not worried.

But we also so many people walking. Some people died on the way. They could blame the government for not giving them any warning of the lockdown.

Was it possible to announce it before? It took one month to transport 21 lakh people by train...People are happy that they reached home. How many people walked from Bombay to Patna? Is there a single example? Is it possible to walk 2,000 km? I understand their misery, their problems but they also understand that it wasn’t possible for the government to organise everything. There were some issues initially. but ultimately they were happy when they reached home.

If what you’re saying is correct, then why is it that your own alliance partner Chirag Paswan criticising the chief minister {Nitish Kumar} for his handling of Covid?

I will not answer anybody else’s question. Everybody has the right to make their point. It’s for the people of Bihar to decide.

Do you think Paswan may be on his way out of the alliance?

We are confident that Lok Janshakti Party and the BJP will fight elections together.

Last time, Kanhaiya Kumar fought election on a Left ticket and his not being with Mahagathbandhan divided their votes. This time they are all fighting together. Will it impact your chances?

The Left is hardly a force in Bihar, they are a spent force. So RJD {Rashtriya Janata Dal} aligning with any other party doesn’t mean anything. There is a huge gap in the vote share between BJP and these parties. The credibility of these parties- the RJD, the Congress -- they don’t have a leadership. And leaders like Lalu Yadav--we can’t help him come out of jail but if he comes out of jail, and he campaigns, it will benefit NDA {National Democratic Alliance} more. We will not have to remind people that here is the man who gave jungle raj to Bihar. So RJD is a polarising party and wherever they fight an election, they create a combination of two castes; all other castes and social groups combine together. These smaller parties don’t make any difference. When BJP, JDU came together in 2010 elections, RJD got only 22 assembly seats and Lalu Yadav campaigned like anything. So when JDU and RJD combined, they defeated BJP. It’s much stronger and we don’t think there will be any difficulty in getting three-fourths majority in Bihar.

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