Lalu all out to stop NaMo's march to Delhi

Lalu all out to stop NaMo's march to Delhi

“The way I stopped Advani rath during the peak Ram temple movement in October, 1990, I am going to stop Narendra Modi this time,” says Lalu Prasad in his characteristic style, while campaigning for the RJD-Congress candidates in Bihar.

His supporters, mostly Muslims and Yadavs, who treat him as the champion of samajik nyay (social justice), cheer at his every jibe against the BJP prime ministerial nominee.
With two-thirds of the battle over (after polling in 27 out of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats), political pundits are busy trying to decipher whether the opinion poll prediction of BJP getting at least 25 seats in Bihar would come true or there are still many a slip between the cup and the lip.

No doubt, the `NaMo’ wave has not slowed down here. But it’s equally true that the Muslims and Yadavs have increasingly tilted towards the RJD-Congress-NCP combine in Bihar as they find this alliance the only option which can stop Modi’s march towards Delhi.
The political picture, which was a bit hazy till Bihar went to first phase of polls on April 10, became clearer after April 17, the second phase of polling. The 17 per cent Muslims and 12 per cent Yadavs, the two staunch core supporters of Lalu, which helped the RJD chieftain rule Bihar for 15 uninterrupted years, have aided him to gain ground this time.

The Yadavs, who still don’t find Lalu corrupt despite his conviction in fodder scam, have stood behind their leader like a rock. On the other hand, the Muslims, although indebted to Nitish for the numerous largesse doled out to them since 2005, have shifted their allegiance towards RJD-Congress combine as they feel a weakened Nitish can’t dash BJP’s dreams in Bihar.

To make matter worse for the BJP, senior leaders like Giriraj Singh and Dr CP Thakur have done more damage to the saffron party in their bid to appease NaMo. Giriraj polarised the voting during the third phase of polling on April 24 in Muslim-dominated constituencies when he said that those who opposed Modi would be sent to Pakistan after elections.

Similarly, former Union Health Minister CP Thakur, known for his foot-in-mouth comments, poured cold waters on his party’s  assiduously-cultivated Dalit vote-bank when he argued abolition of reservation for weaker sections. Though the BJP was quick to distance itself from both the comments, the damage had been done.

The RJD, Congress and the JD (U) missed no time in capitalising the issue. But more than its opponents, the BJP’s new-found ally Ram Vilas Paswan was seething with rage. Strongly disapproving the BJP leader’s comment, Paswan said such remarks should be completely avoided as it would make Dalits turn their back on the BJP-led alliance. Paswan’s concern stems from the fact that his own constituency Hajipur, along with other reserved seats like Gopalganj and Valmikinagar, are yet to vote.Any wrong impression may upset his applecart in his fiefdom from where he lost 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

In public, the BJP may be chanting NaMo wave, but deep within they know the road to success won’t be smooth. “Is it possible to win 25 seats when we (the BJP) are contesting only 30 seats in Bihar?” asks a BJP legislator making an honest assessment.
Refusing to be identified, he tells Deccan Herald, “Let us not compare with 2009 results when we (JD-U and BJP) together won 32 out of 40 LS seats. The two parties together polled nearly 40 per cent of the votes, while our opponents the RJD and the Congress had fought separately.

In 2014, the scene is diametrically opposite. We don’t have JD (U) with us. And Muslims and Yadavs are fully supporting Lalu. It’s a battle between the BJP and the RJD-led alliance where the result could be in 20:18 ratio. Our alliance includes the LJP (may win two or three seats) and Upendra Kushwaha’s outfit (may win one seat),” avers the BJP leader. He adds: “The rest two seats could go to JD (U).”

Nitish decimated?

The BJP leader’s assessment was corroborated by social scientist Ajay Kumar, who feels that more than bagging a huge chunk of seats, the BJP will be more than happy to put Nitish in his place. “No doubt, Modi is now unstoppable. But by decimating his bête noire Nitish, who vociferously opposed his candidature, the BJP should be more than happy. In fact, the BJP and Nitish have used each other in the last 17 years.

While Nitish survived and thrived (after his Samata Party’s disastrous performance in 1995 assembly polls when it won only seven seats out of 324 constituencies in undivided Bihar) using the BJP’s crutches, the BJP used Nitish’s image (as good administrator) to uproot Lalu, as it was not possible for the saffron outfit to do it alone in post-Mandal era in caste-ridden Bihar.

The other aspect of this election is the fact that Lalu is gaining ground. And this should be an eye-opener for those who had written his political obituary when he was convicted and jailed in October last year,” the political thinker argued.

“Conversely, it is equally true that had Narendra Modi not been in the picture, Lalu would not have shown such resilience nor would he have got such fresh lease of political life,” he summed up.

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