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'BJP will play a bigger role in Bihar'

By ARCHANA MASIH
October 20, 2020 12:24 IST
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'There is a strong possibility that the BJP's seats are going to be much higher compared to the JD-U and this would be the turning point for the BJP.'

Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi during an election campaign roadshow in Patna. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sushil Modi/Twitter

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi during an election campaign roadshow in Patna. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sushil Modi/Twitter
 

"Governments hardly get re-elected on positives, only few governments have been able to do that when they start from a base which is very poor. Nitish Kumar has already encashed on that in 2010 and 2015," Dr Sanjay Kumar, psephologist and Director, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

Nitish Kumar is a very experienced politician, but this is perhaps his toughest election. What ammunition does he have in his arsenal this time?

This is his toughest election and he is already firing the ammunition time and again. He is reminding people what governance was like 15 years back under the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal).

One must keep in mind that governments hardly get re-elected on positives, only few governments have been able to do that when they start from a base which is very poor. Nitish Kumar has already encashed on that in 2010 and 2015.

People will want to know what he has done in the last five years. They will not understand that providing electricity or roads needs continuous work. So, it is going to be very difficult for Nitish Kumar (Bihar chief minister and leader of the Janata Dal-United).

He doesn't have such an excellent record in the last 5 years, compared to what he achieved prior to 2015. He will be on the defensive and keep reminding people about Laloo's raj that prevailed before his government came to power.

But there must be many young voters who may not know what Laloo's raj was.

That is why he is reminding them of what it was. I think he is getting the sense that young voters are looking for a change.

Young people like change. They like changing their mobiles, cars, and may want to change the chief minister. They might not have anything against him, but may want to try someone else after seeing him as CM for 15 years.

I think Nitish Kumar, being a seasoned politician, must have got this sense and that is why he is trying to remind these young voters of not experimenting in the election. He wants to tell them that the result of the experiment will be bad.

What are some of the negatives that Nitish Kumar has to battle as the incumbent chief minister seeking a fourth term?

There are bits and pieces and is very difficult to put it in a hierarchical order.

One issue that has damaged his image is corruption. People think that the government has not been honest.

Also, unemployment and price rise which may have nothing to do with Nitish Kumar, but since he is chief minister, he has to face the music.

This is a common compliant you will hear across the state. People do not give considered thought to the fact that employment cannot be generated only by the state government, but it is all about perception and the perception is that 'Nitish Kumar ke raaj mein berozgari bahut badhi hai.'

The mishandling of quarantine centres has also been a negative.

But there have been positives also, like the improvement in bijli and sadak.

This is the first election without Lalu on the campaign trail. Where do you see the party headed?

The RJD's future will largely depend upon how they perform in this election. If they perform very badly with about 25 to 35 seats then there will be an exodus.

Many senior leaders who have been married to the socialist ideology have only stayed away from Nitish because of his alliance with BJP. They have remained with the RJD because of compulsion, and many don't like being subjugated to the young son of a very strong leader.

Voters don't have strong reservations against Tejashwi. He has a neutral image, but the family feud has an impact on the party and would make the 5% to 7% fence sitters, even if they are unhappy with Nitish Kumar, vote for him because there is no choice.

People also remember the misrule of the RJD. Nitish Kumar did some good work in 2005, 2010 and also between 2010 and 2015.

People do compare Nitish Kumar's government with Lalu's government, at least on two counts -- roads and law and order.

Law and order affects all castes, community and strata. There were many incidents of abductions, looting and law and order had deteriorated severely.

In fact, Tejashwi actually apologised for what was termed as jungle raj, which means that the RJD was taking responsibility for what happened.

I gather Lalu's picture is missing from RJD posters. It is only missing because Tejashwi wants to give a message of a new beginning of politics.

All these are factors pose a challenge in 2020.

Do you see the BJP dominating Bihar politics from this election result onwards?

There's a strong possibility of things changing very fast in Bihar politics now.

If the RJD doesn't perform well and the JD-U's gets 20 to 30 seats less than BJP, I think the BJP will be in full command.

There is a strong possibility that the BJP's seats are going to be much higher compared to the JD-U and this would be the turning point for the BJP.

The BJP will be playing a much bigger role in Bihar politics in the future.

But they have to be very careful if they want that role and think about who will be the face of the party in the state. They have lots of faces and that is precisely what poses the difficulty for the party. Too many faces with no consensus on which one.

They managed to succeed in Haryana without a Jat chief minister, in Maharashtra without a Maratha CM, but they might find it extremely difficult to have a strong foothold without an OBC in command in Bihar.

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