Hunkar Rally: BJP unleashes Narendra Modi to challenge Nitish Kumar
While Bihar BJP publicly states that the rally will focus on Bihar's development, in reality the party's biggest gun will try and demolish Nitish Kumar.
Aiming to kill two birds with one stone, Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will address the Hunkar Rally at Patna's historic Gandhi Maidan on Sunday. Modi's first target will be his bete noire Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, while the second will be a bit more complex as he will have to denounce the state's progress in the last eight years and outline his strategy to expedite the process.
As the Chief Minister of a highly industrialised and developed state, Modi is not short of ideas and going by his track record, he will launch an all out attack against Nitish Kumar and his policies. But how he words his criticism of Nitish's development claims will be very crucial because if he goes too hard, the ruling Janata Dal United will use it to box the BJP into a corner pointing out that the latter was in the government till June 2013 before the 17-year-old alliance between the two parties broke.
While Bihar BJP leaders publicly state that the rally, with the slogan "Namo Hunkar, Gunje Bihar" (Narendra Modi's roar reverberates through Bihar) will focus on how to develop Bihar and also demand special category status for the state, in reality the party's biggest gun will try and demolish Nitish Kumar, who had till now not allowed him to enter Bihar. The party has publicly said that it wants the Centre to grant an economic package of Rs 50,000 crore for Bihar.
No stones have been left unturned to make Hunkar Rally a huge success and show Bihar that BJP is capable of not only running the state but can also fulfill the aspirations of its 10.5 crore people. The rally was planned months ago and its preparations picked up pace after Nitish Kumar broke the JDU-BJP alliance over Modi.
Terming the break-up as "vishwasghat" (betrayal), BJP leaders went on an overdrive to corner Nitish Kumar. The build-up to the Hunkar Rally saw all 12 BJP MPs from Bihar, MLAs, MLCs and their comrades fanning out in the districts to garner as much support as possible, and they seemed to have had a great success.
Patna has been plastered with Modi posters, a scenario unthinkable just a few months back as he was persona non grata. BJP has used Modi's famous acronym NaMo on tea stalls, jalebis, caps, t-shirts, masks, wrist bands and a host of other items to popularise Hunkar Rally. The party booked 14 special trains, 3000 buses and several thousand smaller vehicles to ferry its supporters from all over Bihar. Hundreds of boats have also been pressed into service to transport people across the Ganga into Patna.
Taking extra precautions and expressing fears that the Nitish Kumar administration may obstruct the 5.57 km long Mahatma Gandhi Setu - the only road link between Patna and 17 districts of Bihar, the BJP has brought 31 cranes to remove any blockage.
BJP leaders claim that 5 lakh people will converge on Gandhi Maidan for the Hunkar Rally and if it turns out to be true, then it will rival the one addressed by Jayaprakash Narayan on June 5, 1974 which was the beginning of the Total Revolution that led to imposition of Emergency by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and three years later resulted in the defeat of the Congress government at the Centre.
Whether Modi's rally will have a similar impact will only be known after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but every word uttered by him will be scrutinised very minutely. While Nitish Kumar is likely to be his prime target, Modi is also expected to consolidate the upper castes, a traditional BJP votebank.
BJP is already projecting Modi, who is belongs to the other backward castes of ghanchis, as a leader who can break the stranglehold of Nitish Kumar over the extremely backward castes and Mahadalits in Bihar. But this projection is not being done very overtly as in a caste-ridden Bihar polity such a move has the potential of antagonising BJP's forward caste supporters.
Nitish Kumar decided to go alone as he feared losing Muslim support to his friend-turned-rival Lalu Prasad if Modi was projected as BJP prime ministerial candidate. Now BJP leaders claim that Nitish is only trying to scare Muslims using Modi alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots and the Hunkar Rally will show that he has a better development model than the one practiced by the Bihar Chief Minister.
He is not only expected to take on Nitish on the special category status for the state, but is also likely to project himself as a leader who is always ready to take on the Centre unlike the Bihar Chief Minister who according to the BJP has been begging for more assistance and grants.
BJP hopes that after Modi's really the party will not only strengthened its core votebank of upper castes but will also be able to add a sizable chunk of backward castes including Yadavs who have already seen Lalu Prasad, their tallest leader in the state, being jailed in a fodder scam case.
Nitish is being projected as a traitor by BJP leaders and they claim that it was their party that supported him when he parted ways with Lalu in mid 1990s and later made him the Chief Minister of Bihar. According to the BJP Nitish is an opportunist and is always ready to backstab his friends. They point to the mid 1990s when Nitish moved away from Lalu and then he played the same trick on them in 2013.
Nitish has till now maintained a studied silence on the Hunkar Rally and left it to his deputies to take potshots at Modi. But the gloves are likely to come off if Modi launches a diatribe against him and accuses him of minority appeasement.
Bihar's political scenario is very fluid with most of the second rung leaders of all the major parties in the state - JDU, BJP and RJD - are looking for better opportunity in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections a lot of them are expected to switch their loyalties. After Modi's rally realignment of caste groups behind different parties too will be clearer.