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Bihar polls: 4th phase crucial for BJP, party tries to consolidate votes of backwards, Dalits

Raj Singh

New Delhi: Bihar will witness fourth and penultimate phase of Assembly polls on November 1, 2015. If there is one party which has the maximum state in this phase then it’s the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After sniffing a good performance in third phase of polling, BJP is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring a good show for the party in the fourth phase. The high decibel campaigns of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah reflect the  important the party attaches to this phase.
A total of 55 seats will go to polls in this phase. In 2010 Assembly elections, BJP in alliance with JD (U) had emerged victorious in 50 seats. BJP had won 26 seats while JD (U) had won 24 seats.

This time, BJP is contesting 42 of these 55 seats. Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP is contesting 5 seats while Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP are contesting 4 seats each. As far as grand-alliance is concerned, RJD is contesting 26 seats, JD(U) 21 seats and Congress 8 seats.

The BJP rates its chances better in this phase because NDA swept this region(with clear majority in 53 of these 55 Assembly seats) in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The party considers it a stronghold as the caste equation in this region is disposed in favour of the BJP. The combination of upper castes, non-Yadav OBCs and EBCs worked well for the party in last Lok Sabha elections and the party hopes to repeat the performance in the  ongoing Assembly polls.  Last time, Paswan helped BJP lure significant chunk of EBCs and this time, the inclusion of Manjhi has further boosted party’s prospects among Dalit voters.

What is interesting is that the 7 districts that are going to polls in this phase - Muzaffarpur, East Champaran, West Champaran, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Gopalganj and Siwan – have sizeable presence of Muslim electorate. Even the constituencies going to polls in 5th and final phase on Noivember 5,   have significant Muslim population. In fact, Seemanchal which has the largest population of Muslims will be going to polls in 5th phase.

And that explains why the BJP has sharpened its attack, of late, on Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad for trying to appease Muslims. Since Muslims are believed to be voting en-bloc for grand-alliance in these elections, the BJP is trying its best to consolidate Hindu votes in its favour.

In his rallies at Gopalganj and Muzaffarpur on the last day of campaign for fourth phase, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on Nitish Kumar for hatching conspiracy to cut reservation quota of OBCs, SCs and STs. Modi cited Nitish Kumar’s 2005 Lok Sabha speech in which he had advocated the need for providing reservations to those Hindu dalits who had converted to other religions like Islam and Christianity.

The BJP went to extent the of publishing ads in leading newspapers that accused JD(U) and RJD of conspiring to cut the reservation quota of  OBCs, SCs and STs in order to provide reservation to minorities. After RJD and Congress strongly objected to the content of the ads, Election Commission stepped in and instructed BJP to withdraw these ads. But the BJP has obviously succeeded in driving home the point to its targeted constituency.

If political observers are to be believed, PM Modi raised this topic in his public rallies as part of BJP’s two-pronged strategy. First it was a message to   OBCs, SCs and EBCs that the grand-alliance will snatch your quota because under Supreme Court guidelines, the reservation ceiling of 50 % can’t be violated. And any reservation to minorities can be given only by cutting into the quotas of backward and Dalit communities. It was clearly aimed at consolidating the backward and extremely backward votes in favour of BJP-led NDA. Secondly, it was meant to consolidate Hindu votes against the aggressive and tactical voting by Muslims community.

It was the urge on part of the BJP to consolidate Hindu votes that forced its national President Amit Shah to mention Pakistan, all of a sudden, in his public rally. Amit Shah exhorted the electorate to ensure a BJP victory as a loss will result in crackers being  burst in Pakistan.  
As it always happens, political opponents of BJP took umbrage at the statement of Amit Shah and accused him of communalising the elections but the political analysts say point out that  the BJP is not worried  as it has conveyed the desired message to its core constituency.

The BJP and its top leadership have played all their cards to ensure that the momentum of 2014 Lok Sabha elections in these 55 Assembly constituencies are not lost. Needless to say, the outcome of fourth phase polling will make or break the dreams of BJP to rule Bihar with its own Chief Minister.