Hardline Hindutva missing from Bihar poll narrative

Hardline Hindutva missing from Bihar poll narrative

Hindutva is out of NDA's poll rhetoric in holy city of Gaya as Modi-Nitish combine attempt to shape the poll narrative on double engine growth.

In fact, in entire Bihar, the BJP is building on a different poll narrative in contrast to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, where Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath is shaping up the hardline Hindutva narrative.

Addressing an election rally, the big brother of NDA in Bihar, Nitish Kumar, reeled out figures of road construction even in tolas (village colonies) during his regime and the work done for minorities' welfare. “We worked for all sections,” Kumar said, sort of projecting himself as an agent of change in contrast to the 15-year rule of Lalu Prasad and wife Rabri Devi.

The broad theme of Kumar’s campaign speeches has been centred around improvement in law and order, 50 % reservation for women in panchayats and local urban bodies, and 35 % jobs quota. “In which state police do you see such a large number of women as in Bihar,” he asks and then sums up that it is for people to decide whether to vote for work (kaam) or rhetoric  and makes an appeal “do not be misled.”

Notwithstanding the reach out, Muslims are not in the mood to vote for NDA. “Nitish Ji se Bair Nahin, NDA Ummeedwar Ki Khair Nahin (There is no enemity with Nitish Kumar but things do not bode well for the NDA candidate) is the common refrain.

Muslims in Bihar had remained with Congress post-independence and switched over to RJD. For a short period, when Nitish Kumar broke away from BJP in 2015 assembly polls, Muslims backed him. By joining hands with Modi, Nitish has again become anathema for the community,” says Syed Shad Alam in Gaya.

But not all agree. “JD-U will get some minority votes depending on the candidates. There is no denying the fact that Nitish Kumar does not share the hardline Hindutva pitch of BJP and he did work for minorities even when he ran a government in alliance with BJP here,” says Alam.

The fact that even PM Modi did not ratchet up the hardline Hindutva narrative when he addressed a joint rally with Nitish Kumar in Gaya last week, has not gone unnoticed. At the joint rally in Gaya’s historic Gandhi Maidan, which was well attended, the Prime Minister talked of development and social justice but refrained from touching upon the once core issues of BJP.

BJP's different face

The character of BJP in Bihar has somewhat been different with most of its top leaders owing their origin to JP movement and having dabbled in socialist politics, till Union Minister Giriraj Singh and Ashwini Choubey created some discomforting moments for Nitish government with alleged communal comments. However, there has been a lull ever since BJP and JDU clinched the seat-sharing deal, deciding to contest equal number of 17 seats each even though JDU had won just two Lok Sabha seats in 2014 general elections.

With Nitish having the last laugh, the NDA in Bihar is clearly toeing the JDU leader’s line, whose party has time and again flagged its disapproval of the communal narrative. Besides, it seems that even BJP has realised that in the caste cauldron of Bihar politics, Kaam (work) will have more resonance than Ram.