Why did the PM not campaign in Ara?

BJP insiders worry about the party’s over-reliance on PM Narendra Modi and candidates ignored by the PM worry if they have fallen foul and whether the PM wants them to lose

PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

Soroor Ahmed

Whatever be the outcome of the general election on Thursday, over reliance by the BJP on Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking a toll on the party.

While some insiders worry if any other leader would be able to work up as much passion as Modi, campaign incessantly and rally workers and supporters to win at any cost. Dependence on Modi may prove costly in the medium and long run, they apprehend.

His health is also causing concern. Notwithstanding his stamina and energy on display during the long campaign, the Prime Minister did betray a certain fatigue in interviews, when his speech occasionally slurred. At what was touted as his ‘first press conference’ at the BJP office, he looked old and tired.

What’s more, while he is said to have addressed as many as 148 or 155 rallies during the campaign, nearly 290 constituencies that he skipped caused heart burns. And BJP candidates are likely to blame him in these constituencies if they happen to lose.

In Bihar a case in point is the Union Minister of Power (Independent Charge) Raj Kumar Singh. A retired bureaucrat and former Union Home Secretary, he is contesting for re-election from the Ara constituency, where he is locked in a straight fight with Raju Yadav of the CPI(ML). Singh had won the seat in the Modi wave of 2014 and hoped to win comfortably for a second term on the back of his work.

Singh enjoyed a good reputation for being an efficient and no-nonsense bureaucrat. And his claim to fame was not just the arrest of LK Advani when was the District Magistrate of Samastipur but also as the Secretary in charge of road construction in the government of Nitish Kumar.

Reports on his tenure as a BJP MP, the party he joined after his retirement in 2013, are mixed. While a section holds that he is one of the few BJP MP’s in Bihar to have done visible work on the ground, others blame him for not doing enough. Failure to repair the Sone Canal System, built in the 19th century by British rulers, is held out as one of his major failures.

His tenure as the Union Home Secretary was marked by his confirmation that there was indeed ‘saffron terror’ and he had justified the arrest of Pragya Singh Thakur and others accused of Samjhauta Express blast and Malegaon.

He had to wait till 2017 before being inducted in the central ministry. He was outspoken before that and did not shy away from criticising the union Government. That could be the reason why there was speculation that he might not get a BJP ticket again to contest. But he did get the ticket and has, by all accounts, put up a good fight.

So much so that even his political rivals in the constituency acknowledge that he might have won more easily as an independent candidate rather than a BJP candidate.

But curiously, neither Modi nor Amit Shah addressed any election rally in his constituency. Modi did address election meetings in support of two other union ministers, Ashwani Choubey and Chhedi Paswan in the neighbouring constituencies of Buxar and Sasaram. But he gave Ara a miss.

Not surprisingly, the signal received by BJP workers in the constituency was that Modi did not want Singh, deemed to be close to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, to win.

If he does lose, trust him to blame the party leadership.

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