Despondency and hopelessness have descended on the rank and file of the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar as contesting parties gear up for the last and seventh phase of what many believe has been a needlessly long-drawn poll in the middle of a scorching summer. NDA’s campaign suddenly appears to be losing steam.
On paper NDA’s prospects are still considered bright in the 16 seats––out of a total of 40––where polling was scheduled in the last two phases. It was here where BJP had done rather well even in 2015 assembly election, when it was pitted against RJD, JD(U) and the Congress who contested the election together. Many of the 53 Assembly seats which BJP won eventually in the Assembly came from East and West Champaran districts and from Patna and adjoining constituencies.
These last two phases were also important because the fortune of a number of union ministers depend on the results here. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Radha Mohan Singh and Ram Kripal Yadav are among the contestants even as all eyes are on Shatrughan Sinha in Patna Sahib and Misa Bharti, daughter of incarcerated RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. The NDA on paper is still expected to sweep the seats.
But reports from the ground speak of demoralisation in NDA ranks. While vocal NDA supporters were till recently seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Modi, they have been defensive and even silent of late and blame the Prime Minister for losing the momentum.
The Prime Minister’s wild allegations against rivals, against late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his disastrous interview to a TV channel News Nation, are directly responsible for the workers’ loss of confidence, claim BJP workers. “ When the Prime Minister does not appear confident and is making statements that we find difficult to defend, a loss of momentum is inevitable,” says a BJP supporter.
“The Prime Minister’s speeches and his conduct suggest that he wants to remain in power by hook or by crook. It seems that he has lost his confidence and is not sure of victory,” commented a veteran Bihar observer.
The Prime Minister, he suggested, may not be aware of the negative impact he is leaving on the ground. This is a different man from the confident Modi that people remember, he said.
The desperation in the BJP camp is taking a huge toll, they said. Even hardcore supporters are losing interest in the election which has been reduced to mudslinging by none else but the Prime Minister and the BJP chief Amit Shah.
“Supporters of the NDA may not cross over to vote for the candidates for the Grand Alliance, but many of them may stay back home on the polling day rather than vote,” said an analyst.
A senior ‘upper caste’ journalist was surprised to find as many as 20 per cent of his caste-men in his native village had voted for the Grand Alliance. “This would never have happened in the normal situation,” he told this correspondent.
A BJP minister in Bihar was overheard telling a doctor friend that condition of the NDA was not so good. These signals travel fast in Bihar and BJP leaders are finding it difficult to cope with them.