Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bihar on Saturday to monitor the flood-affected districts is likely to deflate Lalu Prasad Yadav’s anti-Bharatiya Janata Party war cry. It also marks the beginning of new political equations in the state, with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the prime minister, enemies-turned-friends, on one side and all parties opposed to them on the other.
While on the face of it this would be about the floods in the state, the political implication of Modi’s visit is likely to be much deeper. The visit happens a day before Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad’s much-publicised ‘anti-BJP rally’ on Sunday. He is expected to flaunt his political muscle in the rally besides making a bid for unity among all non-BJP parties.
It has already showed signs of being a flop show with Congress chief and vice-president giving it a miss. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is not participating in it either.
What makes leaders of non-BJP parties skip Lalu’s show?
According to party sources, Sonia Gandhi won’t be able to attend the rally due to health reasons, and has asked senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and CP Joshi to attend the meet.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has left for Norway on an invitation of the Norwegian ministry of foreign affairs, where he would meet political and business leaders at Oslo.
On the other hand, the absence of Mayawati would be a big disappointment for Lalu.
“BSP has clearly told the RJD that it will share the dais with any regional or national party only when it is decided beforehand on how many seats will go to which party in the secular alliance… Before finalising any secular programme, the policy and principle of seat sharing should be decided first as the life of an alliance is dependent on it and all should get respectable number of seats,” Mayawati had reasoned, while clarifying her stand on not to participate in the Sunday rally.
A CPM source said that it would be inappropriate for the party not to participate as it doesn’t want to play politics when Bihar is submerged under water due to heavy floods.
Apparently, it seems that the ‘BJP Bhagao’ rally would turn into a damp squib, as leaders of many of the non-BJP parties would not like to be seen with Lalu due to the corruption charges against him and his family. On some pretext or the other, they have distanced themselves.
Much before Nitish Kumar severed ties with RJD and Congress, Modi and Nitish were seen wearing saffron turbans and chatting with each other during the 350th ‘Prakash Parv’ in January.
Even when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was a part of the grand-alliance, he supported Modi’s surgical strike and demonetisation move.
The Bihar chief minister almost made it clear that the 2019 General Election to Lok Sabha would be a repeat show as Modi had already emerged as an ‘unchallenged leader’. “Modiji se muqabla karne ki kshamta kisi mein nahi hai (Nobody has the capability to challenge Modi),” Nitish had remarked.
The prime minister after reaching Purnea on Saturday, will be joined by Nitish. Both will visit various flood-affected regions submerged under water.
With Modi and Nitish sharing the dais for the first time since the new-found friendship between the two, it would be interesting to watch how the public receives them. This will be Modi’s first visit to Bihar, after Nitish joined the National Democratic Alliance fold.
Another aspect that cannot be ignored in terms of Centre-State relationship — as BJP is both at the Centre and in Bihar as an ally — is the Nitish-government getting financial assistance from the centre to combat post-flood crisis.
“There has been a paradigm shift in Bihar politics from the days of Lalu Prasad Yadav. People have seen development under Nitish Kumar and now they would reject Lalu’s anti-Modi rant, especially when the state is facing severe floods. People of Bihar would appreciate a helping hand from the prime minister rather than attending Lalu’s rally to listen to him abusing Modi and Nitish Kumar. We’ve witnessed the corruption-ridden regime of Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi,” Mrityunjay Kumar Singh, a Patna-based entrepreneur, said.
Now, as both the leaders enjoy mass appeal and support, their combined reach is likely to dent the ‘BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao’ (Banish BJP, save country) rally in Patna’s historical Gandhi Maidan on 27 August, which is being touted as a major opposition show of unity.
Dr Prashant Das, a professor in Lausanne, Switzerland, who hails from Patna and has witnessed previous regimes with Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi as chief ministers of Bihar, told Firstpost, “Prime minister Modi aligning with Nitish Kumar should be seen as the Centre aligning with Bihar; and a confluence of two strong, well-intentioned political leaders. It’ll help Bihar in terms of development.”