New Delhi: Thanks to an adamant JD(U) boss, Nitish Kumar, the “Narenda Modi-is-an-OBC” campaign has fired the imagination of the backward classes in Bihar but the same is not true in UP where the BJP is a divided house and a few in the think tank prefer further polarisation of the unified Hindu vote.
In Bihar, Kumar’s theatrical walk-out from the NDA has brought the BJP together on the same platform, irrespective of factions, and former deputy chief minister Sushil Modi has helped spread the word that Nitish is out to snatch the prime ministerial chair from the son of a backward chaiwallah.
In fact, so much fear has been instilled in the minds of the Opposition that even a known Modi-baiter like Ramvilas Paswan told DNA, “The OBC card is being played cleverly in Bihar and is likely to bring Modi handsome dividends.”
Paswan believes that this campaign may well fuel a surge in favour of the Gujarat CM and Nitish Kumar may be reduced to a bit player in Bihar’s triangular contest where the main fight will be between Modi’s BJP and the Lalu-Paswan combine.
Every BJP leader — from Patna-based CP Thakur to Central-level Bihar leaders like Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Ravi Shankar Prasad — shares the optimism that the injection of “Namonia” has brought into Bihar’s political landscape. Prasad said, “This positive mood is infectious. There is already enthusiasm among the backwards that they would be voting for a prime minister who has humble origins.”
According to Prasad, if you add this non-Yadav, non-Kurmi vote to the upper caste vote, which comes naturally to the BJP, the result will be phenomenal.
Bihar BJP leaders say they will be able to wean away the extremely backward castes, which apparently voted for Nitish after his interesting social engineering experiment.
Such enthusiasm over Modi is somewhat missing in possibly even more politically significant state of UP. The state may have become the crucial responsibility of Modi loyalist Amit Shah, but overt factionalism is not making the going easy for the Gujarat strongman. Shah has so far organised just one major meeting of “karyakartas” (functionaries) in which some important leaders like Kalyan Singh and Vinay Katyar were present.
It seems Amit Shah alone will not suffice. Modi may plan his first visit to Bihar not before October but he can’t let the situation drift in UP. He needs to get the Brahmins (veterans like Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra) or Thakurs (party president Rajnath Singh is himself a Thakur from UP) on board and have a frank discussion with them if they have any problem with him courting the OBCs.
Modi comes from the Ghanchi caste, which is a Gujarati caste equivalent of Teli in UP and Bihar. Such a surname is likely to be a hit even with the vast segments of the non-Yadav OBCs in various parts of the country’s most populous state.
The BJP strategy is that Modi himself won’t propagate his own background.
Lower-level functionaries will spread this crucial information during the campaign trail.
Amit Shah himself has been doing a tightrope walk. He will leave it to others to bring up Modi’s OBC background in popular discourse. There is a belief among a strong section of the UP unit of the BJP that it is more important to pursue a unified Hindutva line in the state. After all, it was the all-pervasive Hindutva approach which had got the party undivided Hindu votes and 58 seats in 1998 election. Since then, the BJP has been on a downhill journey in UP.