Bihar Elections: Why PM Modi Seems More Worried Than Nitish Kumar

Periodic surveys and TV news channels have been saying that PM Modi’s popularity is still intact. But is it really?

Updated
Politics
5 min read
Bihar Assembly elections, slated to be held in October-November, are important in many ways. This is because, in this election, the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more at stake than that of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
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Bihar Assembly elections, slated to be held in October-November, are important in many ways. This is because, in this election, the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more at stake than that of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Periodic surveys in newspapers and TV news channels have been saying that Prime Minister Modi's popularity is still intact. But is it really?

Not taking 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections into consideration, BJP has not been able to garner any major victories in the state Assembly elections held in the last five years. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are exceptions to this. Keep in mind that all these elections were fought under the leadership of Modi, and BJP had applied all its strength to win.

Assembly elections were held from 8 November 2015 to 11 February 2020 in 18 major and politically important states of the country. The surprising thing is that BJP lost elections in 16 of these states. UP was the only state where BJP saw a resounding victory. BJP barely scraped a win in Gujarat, and after losing in Haryana, formed a coalition.

It is a different matter that after losing the election, the BJP succeeded in forming a government in three states through other means. These states are Karnataka, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Other states still do not have a BJP government

Bihar Elections: Why PM Modi Seems More Worried Than Nitish Kumar

Why is Bihar so Important?

From a political point of view, Bihar is an important state. In fact, it is considered the axis of India’s politics. In such a situation, the Bihar election has become very important for PM Modi. After the defeat in many big states, if Modi sees failure in Bihar too, it will be a big message for the whole country.

Political analysts say that after losing the election of Delhi, the capital of the country, Modi does not want to leave any stone unturned to win Bihar.

BJP had not even dreamt that it would lose the Delhi election so badly.   

The Delhi elections were held at a time when BJP had a lot going on politically, such as the abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the Supreme Court's decision in favour of the Ram Temple, the National Register of Citizens and the Supreme Court's “triple talaq” verdict.

Apart from all this, the BJP also talked a lot about 70 years of Congress party’s failures, Pakistan, terrorism and surgical strikes. I am not discussing Kapil Mishra's “fiery” speeches, here. BJP, as a party, tried to capitalise on all these issues. BJP could not have dreamt it, but it was reduced to just seven seats in Delhi.

It is clear that after this drastic defeat, Modi is making a lot of progress in Bihar. Modi is worried about Bihar elections - you can guage this by his constant virtual rallies.

In the last five days alone he has participated in three virtual rallies in the name of inauguration of small projects. In the next seven days he is going to do three more such rallies.

These projects, such as inauguration of sewer treatment plant and water supply project, inauguration of LPG bottling plant, and foundation and inauguration of schemes related to animal husbandry, fish and dairy, could have been inaugurated by any minister in his Cabinet or even the chief minister of Bihar.

DM Diwakar, former director of Patna-based Anugraha Narayan Singh Institute of Social Studies, says, "Desperation is evident in the PM's action today. He is repeatedly praising Nitish and accompanying him. It shows that even after so many years, the BJP has no leadership of its own. They are continuously losing the state elections and their confidence level has come down significantly.”

Another political analyst Sauror Ahmed says:

“The Bihar election is very important for PM Modi. This is a lockdown referendum, his credibility is falling among people, one after the other states are going out of BJP’s hands and in a way, the state elections are becoming a vote of no confidence for them. He wants to keep his morale high by winning the Bihar election by any means.” 

He then says, "But the most surprising thing is that even after staying with Nitish Kumar, the prime minister still seems to be in desperation. It is Nitish Kumar who should have been worried, because losing the election directly means the end of his political career. Modi can remain the PM even after losing the Bihar elections. "

Ahmed is a well-known journalist who writes his columns in several newspapers.

Modi and his government in the Centre have also taken many steps for Bihar which further reflect their concern about state elections. Note these steps taken in the last three months:

  • Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana - This scheme was started on 20 May 2020 for millions of migrant laborers affected by COVID-19, and its duration is only 125 days. That is, it will end in the middle of October, when the elections of Bihar will also be inching very close to the end. The Election Commission has announced that it will complete the Bihar elections before 29 November in any case.
  • The prime minister has praised the bravery of soldiers of Bihar Regiment in the Galvan Valley attack. Of the total 20 Indian soldiers killed in the Chinese attack, 16 belonged to the 'Bihar Regiment', but most of them were soldiers hailing from other states.
  • The central government has handed over the investigation into the death of Bihar-born Sushant Singh Rajput to CBI. Although Sushant died in Mumbai, the Central government ordered a CBI inquiry on the basis of Bihar government’s recommendation.
  • PM Modi’s Cabinet approved setting up of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Darbhanga.
  • The first Kisan Special Parcel Train between Maharashtra and Bihar was started in August.
  • In the run up to the Bihar elections, Modi laid the foundation stone of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
  • Kameshwar Chaupal from Bihar was included in the trust set up for the construction of the temple. Chaupal, who laid the first brick in the ceremony for the construction of Ram temple in 1989, was the only member from Bihar.
  • The “Jai Siyaram” slogan used in place of “Jai Shri Ram” in the foundation laying program. Keeping in mind Goddess Sita's relation with Mithilanchal, political pundits are also associating the use of that slogan with Bihar elections.
  • BJP has declared JDU’s Nitish Kumar as the chief minister candidate from NDA. This development comes at a time when the BJP claims that the party is at the peak of popularity.

Flashback from 2015

For the Bihar Assembly elections in 2015, the prime minister alone addressed 30 election rallies, which was a record for rallies held by any prime minister in any one election. Despite this, the BJP could not win the election and was reduced to just 53 seats. It is a different matter that later BJP broke Nitish away and formed a government with him.

(This piece was originally published in Hindi Quint and has been translated. Read the original story here.)

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