BJP steps up to hide divide and dissonance in Bihar and reassure allies that BJP is doing its bit for them
BJP has conceded many of its strongholds to allies in the state, constituencies with chunks of minority votes, giving rise to discontent among its own rank and file
There is nothing wrong if a sitting Prime Minister chooses to launch the election campaign in a state from a parliamentary constituency represented by a coalition partner. There is certainly no legal bar. But in Bihar the PM’s decision to flag off NDA’s campaign from Jamui, represented by Chirag Paswan of LJP, did raise some eyebrows and political observers were forced to speculate at the reasons.
On April 2, Narendra Modi along with cabinet colleagues Ram Vilas Paswan and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar kicked off the National Democratic Alliance's election campaign from Jamui and Gaya parliamentary constituencies.
Besides Chirag Paswan, son of LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan, in Jamui, in Gaya, Janata Dal United's Vijay Manjhi is taking on the former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi of Hindustani Awam Morcha, a constituent of the opposition Mahagathbandhan or the Grand Alliance.
Both these constituencies, along with Aurangabad and Nawada are going to poll in the first phase on April 11.
Incidentally, it is only in Aurangabad out of these four seats that the BJP has its own candidate, the sitting MP, Sushil Singh, in the fray.
However, BJP did get party president Amit Shah to address a public meeting in Aurangabad on March 29 , which was however a relatively low key affair and did not get as big a media attention as the April 2 show of the PM.
Analysts are of the view that the Prime Minister deliberately chose to launch his electioneering in Bihar from constituencies from where the alliance partners are in the race. Because the Bharatiya Janata Party possibly wanted to remove the impression and dispel doubts that everything is not hunky dory in the NDA.
There is resentment in the rank and file of the BJP that the party’s senior leadership has surrendered all the seats considered as BJP strongholds since Jan Sangh days.
Take the case of Gaya Lok Sabha seat itself. BJP won the seat six times since 1971. In 1980 and 1984 the Congress won.
Lalu Yadav’s party managed to win a couple of times but Gaya always remained a BJP bastion.
But this time the seat went to Janata Dal United which put up a political lightweight Vijay Manjhi. What has upset local BJP workers most is the party had sacrificed two time sitting MP Hari Manjhi to adjust Janata Dal United which has never won from here.
This is not the only case. BJP had to concede Bhagalpur to a little known Janata Dal United nominee Ajay Mandal, when the fact is that the BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain had lost by a slender margin to RJD’s Sailesh Mandal alias Bulo Mandal earlier. Similarly BJP had to sacrifice Nawada for the LJP. This is the constituency from where Union minister Giriraj Singh won last time. The LJP has never won from here.
In the same way the Janata Dal United managed to get Katihar and Kishanganj constituencies though BJP had worked hard in these bordering region of Bihar. BJP had to sacrifice the sitting MP from Gopalganj also to the Janata Dal United.
The story does not stop here. The sitting BJP MP from Siwan O P Yadav had to leave the seat for Janata Dal United’s Kavita Singh. She would be taking on Hena Shahab, the wife of former RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin who is cooling his heels in Tihar Jail.
In fact the Janata Dal United had its eye on Darbhanga too from where it wanted to put up Sanjay Jha, considered a blue eyed boy of chief minister Nitish Kumar. This seat was last time won by Kirti Jha Azad of the BJP. But he has now crossed over to the Congress.
Nitish publicly expressed his displeasure over not getting Darbhanga and held Amit Shah responsible for it.
The problem with BJP is that all these constituencies have a fair number of minority votes and the party always played the Hindu card here. They are largely urban seats and suits the BJP. The Janata Dal United, or even for that matter the LJP, are not strong in most of these seats.
Yet under the seat sharing arrangement BJP had to sacrifice its strongholds. Last time it contested 30 seats in Bihar and won 22 of them. This time it has put up candidates in only 17 constituencies, leaving 17 to the Janata Dal United which had won only two seats in 2014.
The BJP leadership does not want to show that that there are deep divisions within the NDA. That is why it is paying more attention on constituencies where the alliance partners are in the race.