Modi Vs Nitish: WHO WILL BITE DUST?…

By Sarkaritel September 15, 2015 11:26

Modi Vs Nitish: WHO WILL BITE DUST?…

Modi Vs Nitish


By Poonam I Kaushish


15modi_vs_nitishWho will win Bihar? Modi or Nitish? Political Delhi is agog. Undeniably, the State is vital for NaMo personally and his Party specially post the thrumming it got at the hands of political novice Kejriwal in the Delhi Assembly.  And a do-or-die jung for the Chief Minister. Perhaps, never before have 243 Assembly seats become the lifeline of a challenger and challenged!

Undeniably, either way, the results will not affect Modi’s NDA Government’s stability as it enjoys a comfortable majority. Yet, when common perception is of the Prime Minister’s charisma on the decline and drift within his Government, a setback to the BJP-led NDA in Bihar will undeniably dent his and the Government’s credibility in hard political currency.

If it wins it could halt the Congress-led strident Opposition which successfully aborted Parliament’s Monsoon session, it would repair Modi’s damaged aura and dented prestige along-with putting him back on top of his game.

But if the Party loses, it would embolden his critics who will intensify their whispering campaign of him being dictatorial and deeply divisive. Alongside, increase anti-incumbency sentiments given he has three and a half years left of his tenure. No matter, that the remaining years could give Modi ample time to recover and turn the tide again as public memory is very short.

It would certainly create complications in Modi’s reform agenda and development to propel India on the road to prosperity. As also damage its prospects to emerge as a force to reckon with in Eastern India and the Hindu heartland against the backdrop of Assam gearing up for polls next year and UP later.

Trust Modi to do what he does best. Sell a dream of change juxtaposed with development. Thus, he has made progress of Bihar into a singular one-upmanship, rather than bank on the hackneyed traditional caste-and-creed identity politics synonymous with the State.

Towards that end, he announced with much fanfare a huge Bihar upliftment package leaving Nitish scurrying to improve upon it from his Chief Minister’s table!  He repeated his pet project Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, toilets for each household, Made in India, rail locomotive plant, highways etc.

Further, he adroitly left the announcement of One Rank One Pension to just days before polls were announced to demonstrate his Government’s commitment to promises made. Even as he left Party President Amit Shah to woo the old caste and religious sensitivities to win the State given his   reputation of a top organizer whose political future too is at stake.

Predictably, the BJP is trying to strike a delicate balance between encashing on NaMo’s popularity even as it seems reluctant to cede ground to partners, LJP’s Paswan, Hindustani Awami Morcha’s Manjhi and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party’s Kushawa as it believes votes are solely dependent on the Modi brand. Notwithstanding, that its allies provide a much-needed coating of social inclusiveness as the Party is considered one which enjoys an upper caste support base.

This has put the BJP in a Catch 22 situation. It has to be perceived as treating leaders of other castes fairly given the varied caste-creed factions. This is dependent on the seat-sharing formula to the satisfaction of all its allies. If it manages this it could work its well-organised campaign to its advantage.

There is no gainsaying that the BJP upset Nitish’s carefully crafted social engineering of Mahadalits by wading into the Nitish-Manjhi tussle resulting in the latter resigning from the JD(U), floating  his HAM  and joining the NDA.

Consequently, the Saffron Party succeeded in leveraging Manjhi as a leader of the Musahar community of Mahadalits thereby strengthening the NDA’s presence among the marginalised sections. Even as it worked on Manjhi to woo the Mahadalits, the BJP did not lose sight of its organisation.

Ironically, NaMo’s opponent Nitish Kumar is an anti-thesis of Modi and what he signifies.  Nitish who has formed a grand alliance with bête noir and arch rival of 15 years RJD’s Lalu is seeking a third term projecting his report card of development. Notwithstanding, the inherent contradictions between both, the former rooting for progress and the latter playing to the gallery.

Recall, for reasons best known to him, Nitish hurriedly broke the 17 year old JD(U)-BJP alliance, even before Modi had been named as the BJP candidate. Perhaps, privately, he is regretting his decision given the dismal performance of the JD(U) in last year’s Lok Sabha elections which forced him to resign as Chief Minister accepting moral responsibility.

Moreover, this led him to swallow his pride and seek the support of adversary Lalu to keep his Government afloat. His chosen successor Manjhi not only reversed his decisions but had to be thrown out with Nitish being reappointed Chief Minister.

However, it is not smooth sailing for either. The NDA has yet to name a Chief Ministerial candidate, an important factor in any election as Modi is not going to rule Bihar.  Two, NaMo 2015 not the same persona as 2014. Today he is seen as indecisive and not being able to deliver. Three, in the Lok Sabha polls the NDA got 38.8% vote share, the JD(U)-RJD combine clocked 45%. If the voting pattern is repeated then Nitish wins.

But it is not as simple. It all depends on whether the JD(U)-RJD-Congress forgets the intense rivalry of the past and the intrinsic incongruities within the alliance and votes en bloc. Indeed, a tall order if not kite flying. Bets are being placed on how long the old rivals-turned-allies, Nitish-Lalu will continue to pull together, rather than each other apart.

Specially against the backdrop of Lalu being the first leader to gain notoriety in the infamous chara scam. Presently out on bail he is debarred from fighting elections for six years.  Moreover, Lalu is past master at identity politics who plays to the gallery and seeks votes on the basis of caste and religion, read Yadav-Muslims.

And like all major battles, the outcome will have serious consequences for Nitish too. It could spell curtains for his political career, and the JD(U) could probably sink alongside. For Lalu, another failed attempt at a comeback, by being the power behind the throne, could send him into political oblivion. And if Congress fails to notch a few seats it could be the beginning of the end for its First Family.

Clearly the NDA is banking on Modi’s ascetically incorruptible image, the burgeoning youth populace craving jobs, security and development. It remains to be seen who and how many would buy this line. Already, NaMo has turned the caste-creed politics on its head. As last year results showed despite the freebies and subsidies the aam aadmi hooted for him and change. Can NaMo repeat his magic?

In sum at one level the Bihar poll battle is akin to the fight for India’s Raj gaddi. If it was a Modi vs Sonia-Rahul clash, in Bihar it is direct contest between Modi and Nitish.  Pitted on one side is politics of caste-creeds vs promises of development and empowerment. A toss between the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) or ‘Mahavilay’ (grand merger). In a milieu wherein the winner-takes-all, who will come up trumps? —–.INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel September 15, 2015 11:26