Nitish Kumar has never fought an assembly election since 2004. Yogi Adityanath has won elections every five years. This could generate moral pressure on the Bihar CM to face the electorate
By Sunita Aron
A few days ago when Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath took a vow to oust Bihar’s much-touted Grand Alliance by 2020, it became amply clear that the BJP’s blueprint for the 2019 General Election was ready.
It will be a direct face-off between the two chief ministers – Nitish Kumar of Bihar and UP’s Adityanath, instead of Nitish versus Narendra Modi, as projected in the previous two electoral battles in the state.
The new rising star of the party, Yogi is a polarizing figure, something that can easily cut through the caste equations of the Grand Alliance that had turned the tables on the BJP in the Bihar assembly polls held soon after the 2014 general election.
The saffron-robed Yogi still carries the aura of a Mahant, which blurs his Rajput caste and charms both the backwards and the forwards.
Political observer Prof Rajesh Singh says the BJP needed a fresh face to match the stature of Bihar’s two regional satraps – CM Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Yogi fills that vacuum.
Despite the loss of face by Nitish’s decision to stand by his scam-tainted partner Lalu Prasad, both remain undisputed leaders of their respective castes – Kurmi and Yadav.
Other observers point out that contrary to speculation about a re-alliance between the BJP and the JD(U), it is now clear that the saffron leadership is keen to decimate Nitish, who could become the rallying point for expanding the Grand Alliance from Bihar to Delhi. Second, while Nitish has never fought an assembly election since 2004, Yogi has won elections every five years. This could generate moral pressure on the Bihar CM to face the electorate.
The BJP leadership has seemingly realised that only Hindutva could counter the social equations in caste-conscious Bihar where even Modi’s development model had failed to cut ice with the voters in 2015.
That leaves the BJP with the same formula that clicked in Uttar Pradesh – consolidate upper caste and other backward castes and scheduled castes. Political expert HV Shahi says Yogi’s deployment in Bihar will help in two ways. First,Yogi will have traction for the forward castes that somehow cannot relate to Sushil Modi. Second, Yogi will be able to reach out to the OBCs, break their hegemony that had hurt the BJP’s prospects in the assembly elections.
However, more than the political planning it is the cultural and dialectical bonding of Gorakhpur with Bihar that will play out. Yogi who heads the Gorakhnath Peeth clicks in Bihar as he seen as one of their own, embedded in the same bati-chokha and sattu culture. Besides, the craze for home-grown leaders also gets stubbed by their ‘very own’ Yogi leading the BJP campaign.
Lakhs of politically dominant Bhumihars, when facing the heat during Lalu Prasad’s first stint as chief minister had shifted their base to Gorakhpur. Many later moved out their businesses too.
Bihar leaders often campaign in UP and vice versa, so much so that film star Shatrughan Sinha had even addressed rallies in a mayoral election in Gorakhpur few years ago.
Political expert Abhay Kumar says, “A polarising figure from western UP or even home minister Rajnath Singh would not have worked for the BJP as Mahant Yogi will.”
That Yogi will lead a team of UP ministers, who will campaign for the 2019 elections, was spelt out by Sushil Modi himself when he had said, “Yogi has been deputed to Bihar as part of the nationwide programme.”
Yogi will soon visit almost every district in Bihar, before other parties hit the campaign trail by mid-2018. Already, his Hindu Yuva Vahini has spread its wings in Bihar.
Interestingly, Yogi is also targeting Nitish’s strong constituency of women voters. While addressing a rally at Darbhanga recently, he said, “My government has banned illegal slaughterhouses, launched anti-Romeo squads and started collecting opinion on triple talaq. Women feel safe in UP.” Yogi was of course challenging Nitish to spell out his stand on the issue of triple talaq.
Clearly, from all indications, it is going to be Hindutva laced with development on Yogi’s platter for Bihar.