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Jittery BJP falls back on Pakistan to win Bihar

New Delhi, Nov. 2 : Has Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) admitted defeat in Bihar? Otherwise, what explains Modi’s chief lieutenant and party president Amit Shah to comment that if the party loses the elections “by mistake … crackers will be burst in Pakistan?” Or Shah has taken a leaf out of Modi’s book! When he ruled Gujarat, Modi would often take the communal route to win elections. While political pundits used to be perplexed over the relevance of ‘ Mian Musharraf’ in state elections, Modi would prove them wrong every time. His anti-Pakistan rants grew shriller after the 2002 riots and paid him political dividends handsomely.

One just fails to understand why would Pakistan rejoice at the BJP’s defeat in Bihar? Pakistan’s delight at the BJP’s rout in general elections can be digestible given its hardened posture against it. But that is not going to happen so soon. Therefore, linking Bihar election to the bursting of crackers in Pakistan sounds mischievous.

The remark certainly is not innocuous. A subtle attempt was made to create a divide. The message was loud and clear. By raking up Pakistan in the midst of electioneering, Shah, an astute politician, was not referring to our estranged neighbour, but minorities living in the country. Doubtless to say that the country’s minorities, particularly Muslims, have always been wary of the Hindu party! And BJP is not dumb to this fact. Since the beginning of the five-phase elections, fortunes of both the alliances — Modi’s NDA and Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance — have been fluctuating like a pendulum. The contest is proving to be too close to call with no clear favourite. Therefore, Shah has been shooting all the arrows from his quiver. A lot is at stake for Shah who has been camping in Bihar for more than two months, assiduously planning each and every detail of the election, from increasing party membership to poll booth management.

Shah’s other recent comment that the state election result should not be seen as a “referendum” on the Modi government betrays a sense of unease within the party that all is not as well as it initially thought to be. The punch line “All is well” worked wonders for the Bollywood blockbuster, but Modi’s “Three Idiots” remark referring to the key players of the Grand Alliance might boomerang on his party. Nitish Kumar and his constituent partners have latched on to the statement, turning it to their advantage by projecting it as an insult to Bihar’s “asmita” (pride).

Modi is the face of the BJP in Bihar and he cannot escape censure in case the party suffers defeat. Never before has an election witnessed such campaign bombardment by the party’s poster boy Modi! The BJP has not projected its chief ministerial candidate, who could, otherwise, be made an escape goat in the event of the party failing to breach the Bihar citadel. The Prime Minister himself has been holding two to three rallies daily and his cabinet ministers have fanned out in all the districts of the state in their desperation to win. So, to say that Modi would not be held responsible if the party fared badly in Bihar is an attempt to insulate him from embarrassment. Will the BJP not fete him and ascribe success only to him if it wins the election?

In a growing sign of frustration, Modi and his henchmen have started resorting to personal attacks by digressing from principal issues. This does not bode well for the party. Modi’s campaign in Delhi elections last year backfired when he launched a personal tirade against Arvind Kejriwal by calling him AK-49, referring to his 49-day rule before he resigned abruptly. Modi had to bite the dust as his party was completely decimated in Delhi with the rookie party scripting a record victory by winning all but three of the 70 assembly seats. The Delhi election also saw the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) bringing to a halt the Modi juggernaut that had rolled over to victory in several states following the national elections. Personal attacks and character assassination have not always yielded political dividends.

Modi himself reaped huge gains in Gujarat whenever the opposition mounted a personal attack against him. The opposition abuses only helped expand Modi’s appeal. It is baffling as to why Modi and his men, who started on a promising note in Bihar, fell back on personal attacks and Pakistan.

It would have been prudent had the BJP and its leaders restricted the campaign to local issues of development, corruption, law and order, and the opportunistic alliance between foes-turned-friends Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav. The political mudslinging and calling names against each other have denigrated the campaigning to pathetic low levels. But that is how elections are fought and won in India. And nobody knows it better than the Modi-Shah duo!

(Vikas Khanna is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal). (ANI)