New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate, is arguably India's most controversial politician. But as the country gears up for a general election due by May 2014, he is probably gaining attention, and plaudits, at a national level.
According to the Economic Times survey, half of Uttar Pradesh's (UP) voters prefer Modi as prime minister. But only 28% intend to vote the BJP. The trend is similar in Bihar: nearly half favour Modi over Rahul Gandhi for prime minister but only one-third will vote the BJP. This does not spell good news for the BJP or Modi.
The saffron party needs to do significantly better in these two crucial states, if it is to garner enough seats overall to attract new allies and cobble together a majority.
The survey also reveals that religion and caste still play a central role in politics in UP as well as in Bihar. Caste will shape voter choice, say 47% in Bihar and 41% in UP. Religion will influence voting, say 49% in UP and 43% in Bihar.
In UP, which has the biggest number of Lok Sabha seats, Modi will begin his campaign in big way on October 19. The Hindutva mascot's itinerary includes Kanpur (October 19), Jhansi (October 25) and Bahraich (November 8).
Amit Shah, a trusted associate of Modi and BJP in-charge of UP for the 2014 general elections, has been assigned the task to win maximum seats for the party.
The Muzaffarnagar riots have unsettled the social equations in western UP and catapulted the BJP into a dominant position. Political observers feel that if the party sticks to the line against alleged 'minority-appeasement' by other political parties, it could harness the Hindu votes.
The BJP believes that the polarisation in western UP would help it make sizeable inroads into the Jat belt, as the Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) are perceived as pandering to only the Muslim community.
The BJP will also try to work at social engineering after a spate of riots in UP since the SP came to power one-and-a-half years ago.
West is one of the eight zones the BJP has divided UP into for putting in extra effort to achieve its target of winning 40 seats, which would be 30 more than their present strength in the state.
According to The Telegraph, Modi will contest the Lok Sabha elections from 'outside Gujarat', his principal aide Shah said, providing the first on-record validation of what was being widely speculated. He added that the list of states from where Modi might be fielded “certainly” included UP.
Bihar and UP together account for 120 of the Lok Sabha’s 542 seats. One section of the party feels that if Modi contests from UP, it would hint a committed engagement with the state and motivate the cadres and the voters, especially the floating voters.
Bihar, too, is of special interest, not only because it has 40 seats but also in view of the BJP's bitter fight with former ally, the Janata Dal (United).
While Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar managed to keep Modi out of the state even when his party was in alliance with the BJP, the Gujarat CM's presence at the Hunkar (roar) rally will be a direct challenge to him. The BJP’s star campaigner is scheduled to address the party’s much-vaunted rally on October 27.
The saffron cadres are pulling out all stops to ensure the grand success of what observers see as the party’s effort to present Modi as a bigger hero than Nitish Kumar on his own soil. The BJP's state unit is banking on Modi's charisma to cut into Nitish Kumar's mass appeal - and vote bank, too.
It seems that politics in Bihar has become Modi-centric, at present. The entire political class in the State is either attacking Modi or chanting NaMo mantra. Former Congress leader and RJD boss Lalu Prasad's brother-in law Sadhu Yadav reached Ahmedabad to meet him, calling him a prime ministerial material.
Political pundits are of the view that Modi has given a final shape to Bihar electoral strategies for the LS polls. The Hindutva poster boy is putting special emphasis on social engineering in the state while preparing the party’s poll strategy.
Interestingly, the first proposal to declare Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate came from Bihar.
The BJP spin doctors are also eyeing Nitish Kumar’s core constituency -- extremely backwards castes (EBCs). In an attempt to erode this vote-bank of the JD (U), the Bihar BJP unit has already started projecting Modi as a ‘representative’ of the EBCs.
Also, Upend Kushwaha, who has left JD (U) to form his own party, is reportedly coming closer to the BJP. Kushwaha has said that coming from the EBC background, Modi is the right choice for the Prime Minister’s post given his credentials as an administrator.
Kushwaha, who hails from the backward Koiri caste, had been known to be very close to Nitish Kumar. The two backward castes, Kurmi and Koiri had been the backbone of the JD (U) since its inception and it is believed that Kushwaha’s rebellion could dent the base.
The saffron party also wants allure Pasmanda Muslims in the state. They form the core vote-bank of Nitish Kumar, who has sent its leader, Ali Anwar, to the Rajya Sabha for the second consecutive term. ‘Pasmanda’, a Persian term meaning “those who have fallen behind,” refers to Muslims belonging to the shudra (backward) and ati-shudra (Dalit) castes.
The BJP’s campaign in Bihar will be based mainly on four themes “inspired” by Modi. A senior leader listed these as national security and national pride, good governance and Modi’s impeccable integrity, his caste origin and soft Hindutva.
As the other parties are scrambling for the minority votes, the party think tank believes there could be a reverse Hindu polarisation, at least among the upper castes and sections of the backward castes that had rallied behind the party in the Ayodhya era.