Modi’s Bihar Visit Leaves JD(U) Leaders in Jitters

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PM Modi and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar

Chirag, who proclaims himself as the ‘Hanuman’ of Modi was on cloud nine after the PM’s speech. He tweeted to thank Modi for holding his father in such high esteem

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

PATNA – A pall of gloom looms over the National Democratic Alliance camp here hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden trip to poll-bound Bihar on October 23 to address rallies.

For the first time in the last so many years, there was utter confusion and despondency among the rank and file of Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even as the first phase of the three-phase assembly elections is slated to begin on October 28.

Obviously, a sense of betrayal has gripped the leaders and workers of the JD(U) as Modi refused to clear his stand on the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Instead, he chose to pay glowing tributes to ‘Mitr’ (friend) till the last breath, Ram Vilas Paswan, the LJP founder and father of its present chief Chirag, at Sasaram, where he addressed the first public meeting.

Chirag, who proclaims himself as the ‘Hanuman’ of Modi was on cloud nine after the PM’s speech. He tweeted to thank Modi for holding his father in such high esteem. In none of his three speeches, the Prime Minister did not ask the electorate to not vote for the LJP candidates.

Curiously, Sasaram is the district headquarters of Rohtas, where in three assembly segments the LJP candidates are posing a major threat to JD(U). In at least two of them, former BJP strongmen Rajendra Singh and Rameshwar Chaurasia are in the fray on the LJP ticket. The prospect in Rohtas district is so confusing that the NDA leaders are in private conceding a clean Grand Alliance sweep in all the seven segments in the district.

Ironically, both Singh and Chaurasia are seeking votes by raising the slogan of Modi but, at the same time, accusing the deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi for the total surrender of the state BJP before chief minister Nitish Kumar.

While Nitish shared the dais with the PM in Sasaram and Bhagalpur, he was not present at Gaya, where the eight-time BJP MLA and state’s agriculture minister, Prem Kumar, is facing a tough challenge from Congress’s Mohan Srivastava.

While some analysts are of the view that Modi deliberately avoided criticising Chirag because it would send a wrong signal, especially to Dalits across the country, others are of the view that it was a part of the larger saffron party design to cut Nitish to size. Whatever be the reason, the Prime Minister was certainly in a bind as the Bihar BJP, too, is in turmoil.

The situation has reached to such a pass that–what to speak of the opposition Grand Alliance–even many among the NDA are accusing the deputy CM Sushil Modi of running away from the scene by taking the excuse of being inflicted by coronavirus.

The deputy CM and two other BJP leaders, Syed Shahnawaz Husain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, tested positive just on the eve of PM’s visit while the Bihar election in-charge of the BJP, Devendra Fadnavis tweeted that he, too, is suffering from covid-19 hours after PM took off for Delhi.

A senior JD(U) leader, on the condition of anonymity, conceded before this correspondent that the NDA is going to perform badly, and may even be ousted from power. He attributed this to the aggressive anti-Nitish posture of Chirag, the wrong signal sent by PM Modi and perfect seat-sharing within the Grand Alliance, especially the move to rope in the Left parties, in particular, the CPI-ML.

Apart from the refusal to criticise the LJP, what had angered JD(U) leaders was the way in which the Prime Minister tried to belittle the achievements of Nitish. In his speech, Modi said that the first 10 years of Nitish was wasted (barbad) because the UPA, according to him, did not allow the Bihar CM to function properly and indulged in politics. Then Nitish had to join hands with someone else for 18 months. It was only when he returned to the NDA fold that in the last three to four years the Bihar government had been able to perform.

Thus by one stroke, the Prime Minister tried to take all the credit for whatever the Nitish government had achieved. In contrast, JD(U) leaders are of the view that Nitish is repeatedly highlighting the achievements of his government made in the last 15 years in comparison to the previous 15 years of the Lalu-Rabri regime.

The truth is that whatever tall claims Nitish makes in the development of infrastructure and other sectors, most of them have been achieved during his first term, that is between 2005 and 2010. This was the period of high growth rate of Bihar. It was during these years that he was honoured by several media barons with the award of the best Chief Minister.

Independent analysts contradict PM’s claim by saying that the UPA-I (2004-09) was much more responsible for the development of Bihar as almost all the schemes which Nitish highlights were either centrally-sponsored or centrally-aided ones.

Since 2010, Nitish has been in the news more for cancelling dinner of the BJP bigwigs, snapping of ties with the saffron party in 2013, then making Jitan Ram Manjhi as the Chief Minister in 2014 and then a year later kicking him out. In 2015, he joined hands with the RJD and Congress. In 2017, he made the home-coming to NDA.

A week before PM’s first Bihar poll campaign trip, Union home minister Amit Shah told a TV channel that his party would continue to back the candidature of Nitish as the Chief Minister even if JD(U) wins less number of seats than the BJP. Some JD(U) leaders may have welcomed his statement, but there was widespread condemnation in private as, according to insiders, Shah has in a way asked his voters to cut Nitish to size by ensuring victory of JD(U) in less number of seats than the saffron party.

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