Barely eight days before the first phase of Bihar Assembly polls on October 28, it’s surprising that most top BJP leaders as well as those in the JD-U have focused on incarcerated Lalu Prasad and his family alone, though the main plank of the NDA is supposed to be development.
Take a look at what BJP leaders have repeatedly been saying about Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD, the spearhead of the Grand Alliance which includes Congress and Left parties:
Nitish Kumar, Bihar CM and JD-U chief: Remember what happened during the ‘Pati-Patni’ (husband-wife) rule… People would try to return home before dusk, migration was at its peak while the rulers served themselves. Today, half of the family is already behind bars while the rest will follow suit soon…He (Tejashwi Yadav) has neither the vision nor the experience.
JP Nadda, BJP president: RJD is a gang of disruptive elements.”
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister: RJD was formed to protect its leader (Lalu Prasad) from corruption.
Nityanand Rai, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs: Kashmiri terrorists will take shelter in Bihar if RJD comes to power.
Devendra Fadnavis, BJP’s Bihar poll in-charge: “I heard Tejashwi Yadav will give jobs to 10 lakh people in the first cabinet meeting. I get to know to whom he will give jobs. He will give the order for 10 lakh ‘kattas’ (country-made pistols) and Bihar will again see kidnappings and loots.
Bhupender Yadav, BJP’s Bihar in-charge: Those (Tejahwi Yadav) who are not eligible for a job are talking about providing employment.
Political observers and analysts say these statements reflect disquiet in the NDA camp. On the other hand, the Grand Alliance led by RJD has gone to the voters with issues such a promise for 10 lakh jobs to the youth, doing away with the system of contract, clinics in all villages with accredited doctors and trained nurses and 200 MGNREGA days to the beneficiaries.
Observers say the BJP’s negative campaigning,’ though aimed at winning over the support of a particular section of voters, can be self-defeating especially when it has a plethora of issues in hand: the abrogation of Article 370, foundation-laying for Ram temple at Ayodhya, bringing in the new Citizenship Act and enactment of law to criminalise triple talaq. Equally surprising is BJP leaders’ inability to raise achievements of the Narendra Modi government. Instead, there have been attempts to give a communal touch to the elections.
Nitish, too, has not focused on rolling out his blueprint for his next government. “Such things were never witnessed in the past. They (NDA leaders) are trying hard to polarise upper caste voters by launching sustained attacks on the Lalu family. This is not going to help much,” commented political analyst DM Diwakar, former director with the Patna-based AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies.
Diwakar says Nitish has suffered a trust deficit on two counts: firstly, his move to dump his allies after winning elections and secondly, allegation of corruption in implementation of his development schemes. “Negative campaigning can translate into a sense of desperation. In the case of BJP, the situation is even more complex. Instead of saying upfront that its alliance with Chirag Paswan-led LJP is over, the saffron camp still chooses to be cautious. Amit Shah has said the party will decide over the issue after the election,” Diwakar explained.
Experts attribute the NDA’s changed strategy to a strong anti-incumbency factor against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over the way he handled the migrants’ issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They say Nitish had promised to provide employment opportunities to the returning migrants and had launched an exercise for profiling and mapping the skills of the migrant workers. However, a good number of them have now migrated out of the state after finding job scarcity at home. According to an official report, more than 30 lakh migrants returned to the state after the lockdown.
There is also very strong resentment among the general masse about how the government mishandled the Corona cases in the state while the state remained under lockdown. There are many stories about the families running from pillar to post to get their family members admitted to the hospitals for treatment, denied admission to the hospitals and ultimately dying for want of timely medical care.
People are also angry over the way the state government handled floods at the time of the pandemic. While around 90 lakh people settled across 16 districts suffered from deadly floods and spent nights under the open sky, adequate relief eluded many of the flood victims. These flood victims are now so angry that around a dozen legislators have either been booed out by the villagers or greeted with vociferous slogans and slippers.
The virtual rallies and social media campaigns of political parties have evoked only a lukewarm response. Most leaders have gone back to the traditional mode of campaigning. The idea of virtual rallies was launched by the BJP, and it was also the BJP to resume the actual rally in the state. While former BJP president Amit Shah launched the virtual rally in June this year, the present president Nadda was the first politician to address the actual rally in Gaya on October 12.