PATNA: With 2024 Lok Sabha elections in mind, the Bharatiya Janata Party has started putting the pieces in place on the political chessboard of Bihar. The recent visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the state should be seen in that context.
Shah embarked on a two-day visit to Bihar on September 23 and 24 to lay the foundation of a formidable strategy ahead of the parliamentary elections two years later. The visit comes in the backdrop of the setback the party suffered at the hands of its longtime ally Janata Dal (United). JD-U leader Nitish Kumar not only formed the Mahagathbandhan Government in Bihar but has also been instrumental in efforts to unite the Opposition against the BJP at the national level.
The Union Minister addressed two rallies in Bihar, one in Purnea and the other in Kishanganj, both in the Seemanchal region of the state. In Purnea, he attacked the former ally for being “opportunistic and immoral”. “Nitish Kumar betrayed us to sit on Lalu Prasad Yadav’s lap. Seemanchal will give a befitting reply to Nitish Kumar. Can Nitish Kumar become the prime minister by changing political alliances?” he asked the gathering.
Meanwhile, JD-U workers, endorsing Nitish Kumar’s ambition, came up with posters, saying: “Pradesh main dikha, desh main dikhega” (After being visible in the state, he will be visible nationally) with an accompanying photograph of Kumar. The BJP came up with a new slogan: “Aao chalen Bhajpa ke sath, Karen Bihar ka Vikas” (Come, let’s go with the BJP for the development of Bihar).
Seemanchal region consists of four districts with 28 Assembly seats. Traditionally, the Congress has dominated the region, which is close to the Bangladesh border with predominantly Muslim population. In the 2019 General Elections, the BJP-led NDA did well here by winning three out of the four LS seats. The fourth was won by a BJP man who fought on the JD-U ticket as part of the seat-sharing deal. However, the party has been an underperformer in the Assembly elections and depended on its allies to win in this region.
Interestingly, Shah’s Bihar visit came at a time when the BJP is facing a new competition from the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Gujarat, where elections are due in two months from now. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh are also poll-bond in November next year. But, the fact that the principle political strategist of the country’s largest party rushed to Bihar highlights the importance which the state with its 40 Lok Sabha seats holds in national politics.
After the ‘coup’ staged by Nitish Kumar, Bihar has become a formidable challenge for the BJP. Having come to power for two successive terms on the plank of development, growth and prosperity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been able to blur the caste lines and bring people together under the promise of a stronger nation. But Bihar has been posing a threat to the BJP’s national agenda. The state is deeply divided along caste and religious lines. The JD-U with its OBC vote bank and the RJD with its MuslimYadav vote bank present a formidable caste arithmetic which is becoming difficult to counter with the promise of ‘development’ and a ‘stronger nation’. Even efforts to unite the people under Hindu identity have not yielded the desired results in the past.
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