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Final phase of Bihar polls: Beef back on plate as BJP eyes polarisation of votes

Just when everyone thought beef was a non-issue in Bihar and it was only a passing election-time topic, it is back on the voters' plates. Up against heavy odds in the fifth and final phase in a region with a significant concentration of Muslim and Yadav population, the BJP is debating beef again. It’s not talking about it openly, but the party is seeking to create a polarising situation through symbolism and innuendos.

In an advertisement carried by newspapers on Wednesday morning, the BJP yet again raked up Lalu Prasad Yadav’s statement on the beef issue. It said: ‘Mukyamantriji aapke sathi har Bharatiya ki pujya gaye ka apman bar bar karte rahe hain aur aap chup rahe. Vote bank ki rajniti band kijiye aur jabab dijiye. Kya aap apne sathiyon ke is bayan se sahmat hain.’ The ad has statements from Lalu, Raghuvansh Singh and Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on beef.

 Final phase of Bihar polls: Beef back on plate as BJP eyes polarisation of votes

BJP Beef advertisement. Twitter/@AmanKayamHai

Based on complaint filed by the RJD and the JD(U), the Election Commission took a grim view of the issue and ordered filing of FIR against the publishers of that ad, served a notice to the BJP president and asked parties that ads must be sent to it for clearance before being sent for publication. The EC’s position notwithstanding, the BJP seems to have already achieved what it wanted. The ad is all over social media and news clips. The big question is how far this ad could shape minds of the voters when they go out to vote on Thursday.

The commission had earlier asked the BJP not to repeat its ad asking questions to Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav on offering religion-based reservation to the Muslim community from the existing 49 percent quota for OBC, SC and STs. In his Darbhanga rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked in detail about the ‘Darbhanga module’ of the Indian Mujahideen. Though he stated facts, it has been taken by many as yet another attempt to polarise the voters.

The reason for this desperate attempt is not difficult to work out. BJP leaders and supporters know that the final phase of polling for 57 seats in Mithlilanchal, Seemanchal and Kosi region, spread over nine districts of Madhubani, Darbhanga, Supaul, Araria, Kisanganj, Purnia, Katihar, Shaharsa and Madhepura, has pockets of heavy Muslim-Yadav concentration and this phase is favourable to the RJD-JD(U)-Congress Mahagathbandhan.

Although the six Modi rallies held in the region on 1 and 2 November evoked the usual enthusiastic crowd response, the big question is whether it will be reflected in votes on Thursday. There is a general assessment that in the last four phases Muslims, Yadavs, and Kurmis have voted aggressively. The only way this could be countered by the BJP is though polarisation of non-Yadav, non-Kurmi Hindu votes.

The much-hyped Asadduddin Owaisi factor has not made any substantive impact in Seemanchal region and it will be a direct contest between NDA and Mahagathbandhan. In Kosi region, Pappu Yadav has sizeable influence among the caste and community groups which form core social support base of the Mahagathbandhan. Any gain by him would be the Mahagathbandhan’s loss. For now Yadav has been hospitalised with complaints of chest pain and low blood pressure.

This explains the sense of urgency in Shashibhushan Singh, a Patna-based businessman, to go out and vote. Around the time the fourth phase of polling was in progress on Sunday, he took a decision on whether he should travel to his hometown Darbhanga — around 150 km away from state capital — with his family to cast his vote, or stay put in Patna to take care of his profitable transport business.

Travel to Darbhanga meant sparing time and money. He had no other work at his hometown, but then he says he was guided by two factors — one, to support Modi and a word-of-mouth poll analysis that the BJP could find itself in a tight spot because not enough of its supporters are going out to vote.

Singh says, “I have taken it as my call of duty for my state that I must cast my vote. I have to make sure that the party I believe would usher development wins. Small and marginal businessmen like me have a great deal at stake. I wonder what might happen if Lalu Prasad Yadav gets control over the government. We all have suffered that nightmare for 15 years and don’t want a repeat of it. If I vote and the BJP still loses, I would at least have no sense of guilt that I didn’t vote. My wife is also coming along.”

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Updated Date: Nov 05, 2015 15:58:23 IST