Party's performance will also work as a catalyst in Uttar Pradesh elections.
The coming Assembly election in Bihar is important for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his Bharatiya Janata Party, for a number of reasons.
For one, this is a state where the party’s performance was spectacular during last year’s general elections; a resounding victory again would serve as a barometer to prove BJP’s popularity has not diminished in the state and the country after a year in office at the Centre.
In the Lok Sabha elections, BJP, along with its National Democratic Alliance partners, had bagged 31 of the 40 seats in Bihar. While the alliance won all of North Bihar’s 18 seats, it emerged victorious on 10 seats under the south-central Bihar region. Given such numbers, all eyes will be on BJP’s performance in the coming state election, likely in October this year.
Modi had on July 25 visited the state and addressed a ‘Parivartan’ rally in Muzaffarpur, in the run-up to the Assembly election. In his speech of about half an hour, Modi made, among other things, statements on ‘Bihari DNA’, his political alienation by Nitish Kumar, etc.
He also talked about the power situation in Bihar, and went all out to critisise Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar, saying there was something wrong with Kumar’s “political DNA” that led him to ditch friends who worked with him. “I was hurt when he withdrew his support. But when he did the same thing to a Mahadalit like Jitan Manjhi, I figured out there was something wrong with his political DNA,” Modi said, referring to JD(U)’s split with the BJP in 2013.
Modi’s subsequent rallies are scheduled to be held in Gaya on August 9, Saharsa on August 19 and Bhagalpur on August 30. The venues have great political significance, as these are located in four different corners of the state. Gaya is a prominent religious city where millions of pilgrims descend every year during the fortnight-long ‘Pitripaksha Mela’, to pray for salvation to the departed souls of their ancestors. BJP thinks this could be the ideal place for the party rally.
In Saharsa, Pappu Yadav is one of the major factors in deriving the voters’ direction. Aware of this, the Narendra Modi government has also provided him ‘Y’ security. BJP stands to gain if Yadav works for NDA.
Bhagalpur, another venue where Modi’s rally is scheduled, has been a stronghold for Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal for the past 15 years. BJP had lost the seat to RJD in the Lok Sabha elections. The area, close to Muslim-dominated ones like Purnia, Araria, Kishanganj and Katihar, has traditionally been voting for RJD or the Congress.
Importantly, Nitish Kumar’s rift with former chief minister Jitanram Manjhi might lead to a split of votes. That could work in favour of NDA. Recently, Manjhi formed his party, Hindustani Awam Morcha, after being ousted from the CM’s post. The party, recognised by the Election Commission as an NDA constituent, is expected to get a large chunk of Dalit votes. However, Majhi has been in news for long for corruption and nepotism. The dent in his image might have no significant on NDA’s performance in the state.
BJP’s Bihar performance will also work as a catalyst for the party in Uttar Pradesh, which will go to polls in 2017. The performance in Bihar is expected to have resonance in the neighbouring state as well.