Firing on all cylinders: BJP trump card PM Modi returns to the Bihar campaign trail

Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to the Bihar campaign trail after a roughly two-week-long recess during Navratras. He established an instant re-connect with the electorate, at least that’s what the crowd response indicated at Madhora in Chhapra, where he addressed the first of four rallies scheduled for the day.



His four rallies today had generated an added public interest for the simple reason that he had taken a break from campaigning, something the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan leaders used to launch a psychological offensive against the BJP, levelling the charge that Modi had “sensed defeat and had thus fled” from Bihar’s electoral arena. Modi’s rallies today — and around a dozen others that he is expected to address from Monday onwards to further intensify his party’s campaign — are designed to respond to his rivals’ charge, as also to tilt the scales in favour of his party.

The Election Commission had provided a 12-day gap between the second and third phases of polling.Modi seemed to have prepared well for this round of campaigning, as the size and response of the crowd certainly seemed to indicate. He came out with a nine-point vision for Bihar — beginning with what has been called the B-S-P: Bijli ,sadak, paani, (electricity, road and water), basic infrastructure required for industry and growth; padhaai(education), kamai (jobs) for the youth, and dawai (medical care) for elders.  He said he has done deals with Nepal and Bhutan to set up hydro-electric plants there and the power generated from there would be supplied to Bihar. Development according to him was the only solution to the problems that plagued Bihar.

He used this to talk about the palayan (migration) problem, which is increasingly becoming an emotional issue in the state. Bihari youth have been migrating to all parts of the country, metros to remotest corner for education and for livelihood because of a certain push factor. Modi used it to the hilt to target Nitish-Lalu combine. Who is responsible for not providing them sufficient opportunities in the state. Who forced them to abandon their aging parents, go out and become a Bahri (outsider). Modi used Lalu’s reference of Nitish as Chote Bhai to keep on sarcastically referring them as Bade Bhai-Chhote Bhai ki sarkar and repeatedly ask why did they do in 25-years.

It was one of those speeches where Modi displayed his oratory skills at their finest. He mixed development talk with the sort of rhetoric and sarcasm against his political rivals that kept the crowd in attendance roaring its approval. He referred to Nitish as “Param Adarniya Loktantric Nitish Babu” who day in and day out keeps on thinking about Modi — “Unki virodbhakti kabile daad hai, woh mujhse savaal poochhte rehte hai, but he must respond to why he didn’t visit affected families when 23 children from underprivileged sections from same region died after consuming poisonous mid-day meals”.

He picked up on a TV news clip where RJD chief Lalu Yadav had verbally assaulted an electrician managing his public speech microphone and linked it with the humiliation of the poor and extremely backward. Modi linked that with his own humble origin when he, as a chaiwala was scolded and beaten up by railway workers. “He (Lalu) has not returned to power yet but look at his arrogance. Does he think he is a monarch who can get a poor daily wager thrown out and beaten up?” By recalling that incident and going on about it at length, Modi was basically communicating with the members of the extremely backward castes who had been at the receiving end during 15 years of the Lalu-Rabri Yadav regime. In his Mann Ki Baat, Modi had talked about Dalits and his untiring efforts to restore honour to Bhimrao Ambedkar.

The Lalu and Nitish`Tantrik’ videos too came in handy for Modi to target his rivals. “Earlier I thought Mahagathbandhan had three players,” he said, “Bade Bhai (Lalu) Chhote Bhai (Nitish) and Madam (Sonia Gandhi), but now I realise that there is a fourth player — the tantrik… Do you need these kinds of leaders in the 21st century who think that sacrificing white and black pigeons will deliver them results? They have to be countered and defeated.”

Madhora, the venue for Modi’s rally once used to be a thriving centre for sugar mills, but all those closed around two decades ago during the Lalu-Rabri regime and a famous chocolate-toffee manufacturing centre also shut down. Modi used that nugget of information to say that Lalu and Nitish will have to respond to why these factories — that could have provided employment to hundreds of youths from the region — had to shut down.

“Who made them shut down? Why couldn’t elder and younger brother provide electricity, a most basic requirement to these factories? Bihar has the lowest generation and consumption capacity in India,” said Modi , stating that in the last 25 years of elder-younger brother rule, the fortunes of two generations have been destroyed. People of the region are generally nostalgic about these mills and with their closure, farmers had to shift to some other crops, apart from sugarcane.

This is also the area where Lalu Yadav as railway minister, had initiated a rail locomotive manufacturing plant. Modi had strategically taken Manoj Sinha, Minister of State for Railways to the dais to announce that his government was keenly pushing ahead on that project.

The areas that go to the polls in phase III and phase IV on 28 October and 1 November respectively, are otherwise considered to be favourable to the BJP, even as the Mahagathbandhan is making tall claims. It is supremely important that for the BJP that polling pattern in these two phases is tilted towards the saffron party, if it is to snatch power in Bihar and be in the reckoning for the fifth and final phase. And for this effort, Modi is the BJP’s trump card.