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'NDA won't muster a majority in Bihar'

By ARCHANA MASIH
October 27, 2020 16:25 IST
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'Log kehte hai desh to humne Modi ko diya hua hai, par pradesh nahi diya hai (we have given Modi the mandate to run the nation, not the state).'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi addresses an election rally in Bihar, October 23, 2020.

"The Muslim behaviour has been very intelligent. They are not openly criticising the BJP. They are clear in their minds that the BJP should not polarise voters. They will strongly support the RJD," says Professor Rajiv Kumar, head of the department of political science, Mahatma Gandhi Central University in Motihari.

"People accept that Nitish Kumar has improved law and order, infrastructure, electricity, but those have become old issues now. People expect new things," he tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the concluding part of a two-part interview.

 

How will the Narendra Modi factor be of advantage to the BJP in Bihar?

The direct transfer of money under the Central government's Kisan Samman yojana and Nitish Kumar's 7 Nischay, especially nal jal policy of 2018 has been positive for the NDA on the ground.

Modi's politics is more effective on the national level. Log kehte hai desh to humne Modi ko diya hua hai, par pradesh nahi diya hai (we have given Modi the mandate to run the nation, not the state).

The issues are totally different as far as state elections are concerned.

IMAGE: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav addresses an election rally in Nalanda, October 23, 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo

In time to come do you see the BJP becoming the dominant party, the party that will govern Bihar?

The demography of Bihar is young. That is the reason that Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan are attracting young voters.

Secondly, parties -- both at the Centre and state - which transform their organisation on the basis of demography, have been successful.

The BJP transformed and revolutionised its leadership under Modi and retired senior leaders. It introduced a lot of new and young faces in its organisation at an all India level and this is where the Congress has failed.

In Bihar, Nitish's position has weakened because there is lack of new vision. People accept that he has improved law and order, infrastructure, electricity, but those have become old issues now. People expect new things now.

Many educated Biharis leave the state for studies and jobs. They do well in other states, but young people want good institutes and facilities in their own state.

They have the ambition of seeing their state develop adequately in this regard.

Migrant labourers also suffered a lot during Covid times and are looking for employment so that they are not compelled to migrate to other states.

Ambitions are high and the RJD is being able to tap into that sentiment. Meanwhile, the BJP is unable to connect with local issues.

The BJP's popularity is good. They will maintain their position. They will not gain or lose in this election.

We do not know what will be the shape of the alliance that will come to power. Bihar is divided into three main parties -- the BJP, RJD, JD-U.

The RJD is expected to do better than last time, and the NDA will not be able to muster a majority on its own.

IMAGE: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses an election meeting in Khagaria, October 24, 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo

How do you think the JD-U will perform?

Most upper castes still support the JD-U and Nitish Kumar continues to be a strong contender. It is the common perception that the JD-U will not be able to perform as well as it has in previous elections.

Many important leaders have also left the JD-U which will also affect their performance.

How will Lalu Yadav's absence from the campaign affect the RJD?

Lalu's picture is missing from RJD posters. Nitish is using slogans comparing his 15 years to Lalu's 15 years, but that slogan is not very effective on the ground.

People have realised that Lalu's era is gone and Tejashwi has been successful in establishing himself as an effective leader who is approachable by every caste.

The other important aspect is that there is no religious polarisation at least at present. There is no Hindu-Muslim polarisation in Bihar politics at present.

The Muslim behaviour has been very intelligent. They are not openly criticising the BJP. They are clear in their minds that the BJP should not polarise voters. They will strongly support the RJD.

There was a time when Muslims would put posters to vote for a party that will defeat the BJP, but not any more.

Some say the Congress has got more seats than its due; how are they expected to perform this time?

The Congress has some pockets and they will maintain their positions. The JD-U and LJP performance will decide the next alignment.

Are there any issues that voters will have in mind when they go out to vote? Or will caste remain the deciding factor?

In Bihar, the political behaviour of every caste varies at least in the state election. Every caste behaves differently in different segments.

Local issues like jobs, electricity, infrastructure, and economic development will be on the voter's mind.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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