Thursday, February 2, 2023
HomeOpinionIn his first Bihar rally, Narendra Modi shows Nitish Kumar his place

In his first Bihar rally, Narendra Modi shows Nitish Kumar his place

Narendra Modi’s pitch for Bihar: nationalism, Nitish, EBC vote.

Text Size:

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and the Grand Alliance’s chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav would be happy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first of 12 rallies in Bihar.

Speaking in Sasaram this morning, Modi acknowledged there was a growing last-minute buzz around Tejashwi. He didn’t name the RJD leader, of course, because Modi doesn’t believe in naming opponents and raising their stature.

Even so, he did doff his hat to Tejashwi when he said, (rough English translation), “I have worked closely with people from Bihar and learnt a lot from them. They are very clear. They are never in confusion. Even before the election, the people have decided to make the NDA victorious, according to all surveys and reports. But some people are trying to spread confusion. They are trying to raise the stature of one or two faces. They’re trying to spread the word about the emergence of new forces. But the wise people of Bihar have made up their minds. They won’t allow those who have a history of making Bihar a Bimaru state come even close to them.”

After this, Modi launched an expected attack on the ‘Jungle Raj’ days when Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi ruled Bihar. Nothing gives the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar common ground more than opposing the RJD. It was this common ground that brought the BJP and Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) together in the first place. This common ground also has to do with caste, because the BJP’s core voters, the upper castes, were the most articulate against the RJD’s ‘Jungle Raj’ excesses.


Also read: The real Bihar election will begin after the results


NDA against Laltain but what about Chirag?

Modi put his weight behind Nitish Kumar, explaining his relationship with him as one between Patna and Delhi. Modi said Nitish was fighting with the UPA’s negligence of Bihar for 10 years. Then, when the RJD came together with Nitish, everyone knows what happened for 18 months. “You know what the family did, what kind of games they played, what the media was full of.” This is the context in which Nitish Kumar had to leave their company.

As if it was not bad enough that Modi reminded people of Nitish’s mid-term change of alliance partners, he even suggested that any real development in Bihar took place only in last 3-4 years out of roughly 15 years of Nitish’s rule. 

Modi said he got only 3-4 years to work with Nitish Kumar, and in this short time, the Bihar government was able to multiply manifold the speed of development work in the state. This way, Modi praised himself and subtly undermined Nitish Kumar, whom he painted as a hapless leader who was not allowed to give Bihar his best by the UPA and the RJD.

Naming Nitish Kumar thrice in his speech, Modi emphasised that workers of NDA alliance parties — the BJP, the JD(U), Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Mukesh Sahni’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are working in unison for “atmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bihar”.

He did not name Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which is strangely contesting against JD(U) and others but not against the BJP. Modi could have done more to clarify that the LJP should be ignored by NDA supporters, he could have said that any vote for others is a vote against NDA. He could have categorically said that Nitish Kumar would be the next chief minister of Bihar. He could have said that those trying to create a divide between the BJP and the JD(U) won’t succeed. He said no such thing. 

Instead, he started his speech with lavish praise for the recently deceased Ram Vilas Paswan, saying that Paswan stood by Modi till the very end. 

While Modi firmly backed the BJP’s alliance with Nitish Kumar, he also showed the Bihar CM his place.


Also read: The curious case of Nitish Kumar — 87% anger, 100% victory


Nationalism and caste 

Making a biting Hindutva remark before every state election is a hallmark of Narendra Modi. At least in his first Bihar rally, he hasn’t done so. Instead, Modi took to nationalism, cleverly fusing it with Bihari regional pride.

Modi said the opposition was promising to restore Article 370 in Kashmir, which he said would be an insult to soldiers, some of whom came from Bihar and gave their lives to the nation in Galwan Valley clash and in 2019 Pulwama attack. Yes, even Chinese incursions are helping Modi, or so it would seem from his pitch.

In 2015, Nitish and Lalu had together played on Bihari regional pride, presenting the BJP as an outsider. It was called “Bihari versus Bahari” polarisation. Modi played to Bihari regional pride, speaking in Bhojpuri, with some help from his transparent teleprompter. For a Gujarati prime minister to do so is a way of India acknowledging Bhojpuri culture and tradition. Speaking in Bhojpuri, Modi said Bihar was the pride of India.

This speech was also a good answer to why Narendra Modi needs Nitish Kumar, even though by all accounts, the Prime Minister is far more popular in Bihar today than the chief minister. Narendra Modi named Jayaprakash Narayan, the anti-Emergency leader, and hoped that former chief minister Karpoori Thakur would bless the NDA if he were alive today.

The BJP has never had a chief minister of its own in Bihar. A defanged Nitish Kumar as chief minister suits the BJP because it would like to become the inheritor of the old Socialist mantle in the state. Modi’s clear reference to Karpoori Thakur and the Extremely Backward Classes (ati-pichhda) tell you why it’s wiser for the BJP to co-opt Nitish Kumar and become his legatee rather than unceremoniously dump him.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism

3 COMMENTS

  1. TS Darbari – Bihar Legislative Assembly elections that are going to be held on 28 October 2020 are quite interesting. The mathematics and chemistry of this election is beyond imagination. hough elections in India are always interesting and the kind of game parties play to stay in power cannot be explained in words. However, the election, this time, is uniques. BJP, JDU and LJP are part of the central government but LJP is against JDU in Bihar while Mr. Chirag Paswan openly says that he wants to make the government with BJP post-elections. #TS_Darbari #Ts_Darbari_Blog #TS_Darbari_News #Ts_Darbari_Views #Ts_Darbari_Blogger #TS_Darbari_Comments #Ts_Darbari_Opinion #About_TS_Darbari #TS_Darbari_Articles #Politics #Views #Comments

Comments are closed.