“Kaun kisko iss desh se bahar karega… ye kisi ke paas dum nahi hai. Sab Hindustan ke hain. Kaun kisko bahar karega? (Who will drive out whom from this countr, no one has the courage. Everyone is from India. Who will throw out whom?),” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar asked at his rally on Wednesday in Muslim-dominated Kochadhaman in Kishanganj district of northeast Bihar.
This is not the first time that a senior political figure of the BJP has, over the last month, spoken about implementing the CAA-NRC. On October 20, BJP president JP Nadda in West Bengal’s Siliguri district said the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was delayed due to the pandemic and the law will be implemented soon.
Kumar’s statement, for the first time during this campaign vociferously standing against the CAA, comes at an interesting time. A lot of seats going to polls in phase 3 in the Seemanchal region — like Kishenganj, Purnea, Araria and Katihar districts — have a substantial presence of Muslim voters. The question many political observers are asking: is the JD(U)-BJP working in tandem to cater to their own vote banks or is the divergence between their ideologies being seen in full pubic view?
Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, former Patna University teacher and political analyst, thinks it’s the latter.
“Their divergent political views were never hidden from the public. Nitish Kumar feels he has a different identity and he wants to preserve it. He tried hard to cultivate the image of being an inclusive, progressive and secular leader who leads a composite society. He doesn’t want to lose that advantage," Chaudhary said.
However, Chaudhary goes a step further and posits that by assuming this posture against the CAA, Kumar is also thinking of a post-poll scenario where he may have to step out of the NDA’s fold.
“Nitish Kumar is a master strategist. He clearly is suggesting that his options are also wide open. He will become the chief minister with BJP if possible and with Mahagathbandhan if necessary. He has given clear and ample hints to RJD and Congress that he’s not power hungry," Chaudhary said.
Social scientist and retired academic Sachindra Narayan believes with polling having taken place in two phases, both NDA partners are openly catering to their own voters.
“In the last phase since many seats have substantial Muslim population, BJP is trying its best to polarise voters while Nitish is trying to do his best to retain his minority voters. BJP leaders feel they don’t need Muslim votes and JD(U) cannot ignore those votes," Narayan said.
But he adds that so late into polling there is very little room to change the minds of voters. “Most people have already voted with just two days to go for polling, I don’t think these statements will have any major impact. Voters may have already made their minds up. So we can read these statements, especially from Nitish, in the post-poll context," Narayan added.