From Jungle Raj Ka Yuvraj, to “biwi, bachche (wife, kids) jibes, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar, battling hard against a numerically strong Opposition alliance, has launched a blistering attack on the RJD-led grand alliance on issues, which have the potential to put in on defensive.
Addressing an election rally in Khagaria on Friday, Nitish Kumar recalled that when Lalu Prasad had to go to jail in a fodder scam in 1997 after remaining Chief Minister for seven years, he chose to anoint his wife on the CM chair in his place and contrasted it with how he himself empowered the women of the state in panchayats and urban local bodies, besides providing quotas to SC, ST and backward classes.
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Kumar was playing on the ‘parivar’ (family) versus ‘praja’ (people) theme, which suits the alliance as despite being the Chief Minister for three terms, he has not taken any effort to promote any of his family members into politics, although a number of politicians from both the NDA as well as the grand alliance have fielded their wives, sons, daughters and daughters-in-law in the polls.
On the ‘dynasty’ issue both Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi can afford to do aggressive campaigns against the Opponents. BJP, which has frequently slammed Rahul Gandhi by calling him a ‘prince’ and ‘shehzada’, took a potshot at Rahul in the middle of the Bihar polls calling him ‘Prince of Pakistan’ after a video clip went viral of a Pakistani MP saying that his country had to release Abhinandan as it feared attack by India.
The incumbent Bihar CM has also attacked RJD reminding people of the “8-9 kids”. Without naming him, Kumar said no development can be expected from people producing ‘8-9 kids’ for a son.
Kumar, who has assiduously attempted to build a constituency of support among women in the state taking various women welfare measures like providing cycles for school-going girls and reserving seats for them in Panchayat, rubbed in further linking the birth of so many children to lack of trust in women. “Beti par bharosa nahi hai. 7-8 beti ho jane ke bad ladka hua. Kaise Bihar Banana chahte hain (There is no faith in daughters, after 7-8 daughters a son was born. What kind of Bihar you want to make?).
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Kumar, whose party JDU has inducted late RJD leader and former Union Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh’s son Satya Prakash Singh into the party fold, also reminded people that RJD did not treat Raghuvansh Babu (a key socialist leader belonging to the Rajput community) well as they are “bothered only about their wife, sons, and daughters”.
BJP chief JP Nadda asked Tejashwi to apologise to people if he had removed pictures of his father Lalu Prasad and mother Rabari Devi, the former Chief Ministers of Bihar from RJD election posters.
The barbs related to dynastic politics and nepotism may be discomforting for not only RJD but also the Congress, where the top leadership for more than two decades has been alternating between mother and son—Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi is a key campaigner of the grand alliance.
Reminding people of alleged ‘lawlessness” during Lalu Prasad’s rule, Nadda also asked people to choose between Bahubal (muscle power) and Vikas Bal (power of development).
Also to counter the 10 lakh job promise and farm loan waiver, the Bihar Chief Minister has brought in the issue of reservation according to the population of communities based on the caste census, a promise targeted consolidating OBC votes, which according to independent estimated number is more than half of the total voting population and is getting quota benefits to only nearly half of their population percentage.
With Nitish Kumar himself belonging OBC Kurmi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to an EBC community, the subtle mention of reservation according to the population by the NDA can help it blunt the consolidation of other backward castes against the Yadav dominated OBC politics of RJD.