By Arun Srivastava
“We will win all the 40 seats” is the clarion call of the BJP Chanakya Amit Shah to his cadres and sympathisers in Bihar. But the task ahead is arduous. Riding on the shoulders of the RSS, Narendra Modi and his lieutenant Shah may talk of accomplishing the mission, but the ground realities depict a different proposition, the BJP eventually may not only retain the seats it won in 2019., it will lose heavily in 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Even while running the NDA government along with the JD(U) earlier, the BJP leaders could not shape a strong base. The caste combination which the leadership tried to work out was fragile in character and content. Its endeavours to place in order an edifice on the groundwork of communalism did not work. The most pitiful has been its failure to spread the message of the Hindutva horizontally at the ground level.
Not to be surprised, the RSS which has high stakes in the 2024 Lok Sabha election is more exuberant than its political organ BJP for sweeping the polls. The Hindu outfit is extremely scared of the gains achieved during Modi rule being washed away if the BJP loses the election. For BJP winning the election is a survival quotient, but for the RSS it would define the destiny of its mission to transform India into a Hindu Rashtra.
Communal riots that took place in Sasaram and Biharshariff coinciding with the celebration of Ram Navami was part of the greater strategy to arouse Hindu passion just on the eve of the Lok Sabha election. But it did not work notwithstanding Bajrang Dal of RSS deploying a strong band of 454 WhatsApp groups to foment communal violence in Biharshariff alone. These groups were assigned to circulate fake news and provocative photos and videos.
The RSS was sure that the two incidents would electrify the passion of the Hindus. But it did not happen. The plot got exposed even before the rioters could indulge in extreme form of rampage. The incidents occurred for two consecutive days, what was significant the local people stayed away, in most cases even stood like a rock before the miscreants. What was worse for the bigots was it did not spread to other areas and remained confined to Sasaram and Biharshariff. It was a major rebuff to the saffron goons. It is worth mentioning that CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya had referred to Shah’s speech at Nawada wherein he had brazenly called for a mandate for the BJP within hours of communal violence, thereby betraying their electoral game plan’.
The very next day of the riot chief minister Nitish Kumar exposed the design saying; “Communal tensions during Ram Navami festivities at Sasaram and Biharsharif are disturbing. Such incidents happened for the first time in the area. It’s not natural….We know that some people are indulging in “gadbad” (mischief) and are trying to disrupt communal harmony in the state. We will not allow this to happen”.
RSS was sure of escalation as a section of the state police officials and sepoys nursed soft corner for it. RSS in recent times has managed to penetrate the police force. If he sources are to be relied the RSS was sure of the multiple effect of the clash which was certain to consolidate the Hindu voters. But it did not happen. The RSS had also planned to hold Hindu meets, a precursor to Hindu consolidation for turning India into Hindu Rashtra. But realising the gravity of the situation this programme was also dropped.
Barely a year left for the LS election, the BJP has also started using the IT and social media. It has prepared an extensive plan to reach to the booth level functionaries through these devices. These will be used to misinformation campaign against its opponents. In the Sasaram and Biharshariff violence the Bajrang Dal extensively used the IT and social media.
The IT and social media will also be used to compile and prepare a complete dossier on each of the 40 constituencies from where the party would be fielding its candidates. It will also furnish information about the class and caste character of the voters. Its specific focus would be on the Muslims, their prominent faces. The IT and social media team has a strong cadre base of around 10,000 members. As a step towards rejuvenating the party at grass level, at least 45 organisational district chiefs have been changed. There is no Muslim chief.
Amit Shah has replaced the earlier state chief Sanjay Jaiswal, a Bania, with Samrat Choudhary, a Koiri. But this change according to sources has not yielded the desired result. Shah nursed the view that installation of Samrat would conjure Koiris and Kurmis the support base of Nitish to shift towards the BJP. But it does not appear to be materialising. The reason is, Samrat is quite a lightweight politician and he could not be projected as a counter to Nitish. The urgency of the situation has however made Shah desperate to cobble up a new combination of small parties. Since even a one per cent vote shift makes a significant difference in the final count, Shah thinks that combined strength would help B JP to trounce Mahagathbandhan.
But Nitish Kumar who has been keeping a watch on the moves of Modi and Shah, is ready with his own plan to combat their design. While Amit Shah is busy chalking out the strategy to rope in smaller parties, representing the OBC or EBC sections which constitute around 2 to 3 per cent of the population, like Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal (RLJD), and other social groups, Nitish has already broken the barrier with bringing closer Chirag Paswan, the chief of Lok Janshakti Party. In a significant development on Friday Chirag attended the Iftar party hosted by Tejashvi and sought the blessings of Nitish touching his feet. He also met Rabri Devi and sought her blessings. Though experts would not like to attach major significance to this development, fact cannot be ignored that that two die hard opponents who nursed antagonistic relations for quite long shared the seat together.
In Bihar BJP is left with no ally. Its former allies have deserted it accusing Modi of bossiness and being arrogant. BJP had mustered around 35 per cent votes in 2019 Lok Sabha election. But it would be not wise to compare that with the latest support base. Recent by election results point to decline in the percentage of vote. Moreover it should be remembered that in 2019 Nitish was with Modi. it had a cumulative effect on the percentage of votes secured by BJP. Party’s top leaders, Modi and Shah, are scared of going to polls alone. Modi has only one ally in LokJanshakti Party (LJP) of Union Minister Pasupati Kumar Paras, which has no MLA in the state Assembly. The Dalits do not accept his as their leader. Moreover they are angry with him for deserting Chirag.
The RSS notwithstanding putting a brave face is treading cautiously in the matter of mobilising Hindus. It perceives the Hindus of Bihar not a fanatic lot, as they are in UP. The RSS was planning to hold a meet of the Hindus in two places in Bihar to reach the messages of need for creation of Hindu Rashtra; one in Seemanchal and other in north Bihar somewhere in Chapra or Siwan. Both these areas of sizeable population of Muslims. In Chapra and Siwan the deceased don had wider following, but the victory of the BJP in Gopalganj has boosted their moral. However the proposal has been shelved for the time being.
Besides roping in smaller parties, Shah is also working on the project to evolve a new social and caste equation consisting of ‘upper’ castes and backward classes. His installing Samrat as state BJP chief is the indicator of his move. He is sure that unless the caste and class equation of RJD and JD(U) is dismantled , BJP cannot aspire to win. Lalu and Nitish enjoy the support of Yadavs along with non-Yadav backward castes and some Dalit communities. Under Shah’s scheme Modi will mainly focus on Bihar with a backward caste agenda.
But Nitish has already started targeting the BJP, especially Modi. On January 30, Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, without naming anyone but appearing to imply RSS, Nitish said, “Who killed Bapu Gandhi? Have we forgotten? We have to create awareness in the new generation about the killers [of Gandhi].” He knows it well to ensure BJP’s defeat, while he has to attack Modi and Shah, his prime target would be the ground level operation of RSS. Paying tributes to Bapu at the Gandhi Ghat in Patna on that day he held Modi responsible for the intolerance in the country today.
While Nitish is ensuring the development works and projects must get a major bureaucratic thrust, he is also systematically reaching out to the OBCs, EBCs and Dalit during his visit to the districts for reviewing the developments works. These castes constitute around 50 per cent of the total population and 3o0 per cent of the eligible voters. RJD enjoys the absolute support of the Yadavs and Muslims who together account for almost 40 % of the votes in the state, Nitish and Lalu enjoy almost impregnable clout over most of the backward classes in the state.
A senior RSS leader conceded that they would certainly like to win elections, but not at the cost of the image of the organisation. These RSS leaders squarely put the blame on Shah and Modi for Nitish severing his relation with the BJP and aligning with the RJD. The RSS leaders are also highly critical of promoting the turncoats. They have a valid question; Can Modi or Shah guarantee that they will not leave the BJP once it is defeated and loses power?
It does not appear that the efforts of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to reach out to the Muslims would soften their attitude and approach towards BJP. With attacks on Madrassas and Mosques becoming every day affair, they have turned suspect of the intentions of Bhagwat. They nurse the feeling that RSS leader perceives them as fools. For protecting the interest and izzat of the Muslims, they would have to goad the Hindu bigots, which they would never do.
The common Muslims describe the Muslim Rashtriya Manch formed by some upper caste Muslims, to gain benefits from the BJP. This is the replication of the exercise undertaken by some Muslim leaders during the Congress rule. They would identify them with the Congress for getting a slice of the power. The leaders of MRM are indulging in same nature of practice but they would not get the benefits from the BJP, as the party is determined to keep them away from the political fulcrum and decision making process. (IPA Service)