Will the Modi overkill prove counterproductive for the BJP in Bihar? The mood on the ground offers a hint of that. It appears that the Muslim votes are getting sharply polarised against him while Hindu votes have not consolidated enough in his favour to give his party a resounding victory in the battleground state.
Let's begin at beginning. The BJP's campaign in the state has been all about Modi. The party's prime ministerial candidate has visited the state six times ever since the general elections were announced. While canvassing for party candidates he has made himself the sole talking point, reducing the candidates to irrelevance in the process. The BJP unit here too has made him the focal attention, playing up his caste background, his achievements, and his Hindutva credentials too. While Modi himself has been careful not to talk about religion, the entire Sangh Parivar, which has gone hyperactive on the ground, has been busy giving the campaign a communal flavour.
If the idea was to divide voters along religious lines, it is not exactly going according to the script. The Muslim votes have got sharply polarised, but the reverse polarisation among the Hindus is not in evidence. In normal circumstances, the former don't vote en bloc as generally perceived, with their going to different secular parties. However, the BJP's campaign has created a situation where they will vote to defeat Modi.
The party has reason to be worried. Six of the seven seats going to polls on April 24 have huge Muslim presence. Most of these seats—Kishanganj, Katihar, Araria, Purnia, Supaul, Bhagalpur and Banka—are located in eastern Bihar. As per a report, Muslims constitute 70 percent of the population in Kishanganj, around 42.5 percent in Katihar constituency, 41.13 percent in Araria, 30 percent in Purnia, 16 percent in Supaul and about 20 percent in Bhagalpur. In Bank they account for 13 percent of the total population.
That Muslims do not like Modi is an open secret but his frequent camping in Bihar has only aggravated their apprehension about him. There are indications that they will go for tactical voting to defeat BJP's candidates. In Kishanganj, the JD(U) candidate Akhtarul Iman even withdrew from the contest in favour of the Congress’ candidate to ensure the BJP candidate does not emerge victorious owing to split in minority votes. With him out of the picture, it is a direct contest between Congress’ Asrarul Haque and BJP candidate Dilip Jaisawal.
Similarly, there are reports of Muslims supporting the RJD candidate Mohamamd Taslimuddin in Araria, Congress-RJD backed NCP candidate Tariq Anwar in Katihar, RJD candidate Bulo Mandal (instead of BJP’s lone Muslim candidate in Bihar Syed Shahnawaz Hussain) in Bhagalpur, RJD-supported Congress candidate Ranjita Ranjan (wife of muscleman Pappu Yadav) in Supaul and JD (U) candidate Santosh Kushwaha in Purnia.
“We are worried over the fact that Narendra Modi is inching towards power; we are doing whatever we can to stop him,” says Mohammad Pervez Sahin of Kasba block in Purnia. Similar views were expressed by another Purnia villager Mohammad Nadim who said "We are opposed to Modi not because of Gujarat communal riots but because we don’t find him suitable for Muslims.">
Eminent social scientist Sachindra Narayan believes the BJP's strategy is backfiring. “Aab to ghata ho raha hai (Now it looks like BJP is going to face losses),” he said, adding Modi's excessive focus on Bihar is not proving productive for the party.
The consolidation of Hindu votes has not happened the way the BJP think-tank expected. In a state deeply divided along caste lines it was a difficult task to begin with. The upper castes, the traditional vote bank of the BJP, is upset at the prominence the lower castes have acquired in this election. Moreover, the distribution of tickets has created several pockets of discontent withing the party and its magnetic field. Nomination of outsiders in many seats has made the BJP workers feel cheated. The lack of enthusiasm among them is palpable. To make mattes worse, after an overdose of Modi fatigue is setting in among voters.
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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2014 13:37:13 IST