The BJP and the JD (U) are allies during the Bihar Assembly Elections 2020 and they are seeking the mandate of the people. However, their languages and strategies are often contradictory. While the BJP is playing the communal card and invoking Pakistan during the election rallies, the JD (U) is trying to woo Muslims. Even when they converge coming down on the fifteen years rule of Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi and dismissing it as “jungle raj”, their tones differ. The BJP resorts to speaking rather harsh languages for the RJD in a bid to appease upper caste voters.
The BJP is at the forefront of attacking Lalu-Rabri Raj. For example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the Sasaram rally (October 23), said that “Government jobs are a source of earning bribe for RJD: Modi” (Sarkari naukariyan Rajd ke liye rishwat kamane ka zariya: Modi). The next day Dainik Jagran (Patna, October 24) made Modi’s speech the lead story while it gave scant space to Chief Minister and NDA face Nitish Kumar, who was also present in the rally. Even in the BJP’s advertisements, Nitish Kumar is hardly given place.
On Sunday, November 1, Modi’s rally is scheduled to be held in Chhapra. Dainik Jagran (Patna, November 1) published a half-page advertisement on the front page. “Chhapra has confidence in Modi ji” (Bharosa hai, Chhapra ko Modi jee par) reads the advertisement. Again Modi’s picture is printed to the exclusion of Nitish.
The image of jangal raj was also invoked by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad: “Who was responsible for jangal raj in Bihar? Tejashwi should answer how many doctors have been abducted during his father’s tenure?… Fear (khauf), extortion (rangdari), ransom (phirauti) were the scene in Bihar”, Dainik Jagran (Patna, October 31) reported. Bihar State President Sanjay Jaiswal attacked the Lalu family for promoting dynasty politics (parivarvad), according to a report of Dainik Jagran, Patna, November 1). BJP National President went a step further and claimed that if Mahagathbandhan comes to power, it will be doom for Bihar. There will be lawlessness.
Apart from the BJP, columnist Surendra Mohan also hit Mahagathbandhan. Writing an article in (Dainik Jagran Oct 30), he held the RJD rule responsible for Bihar’s backwardness and said that its political hair is now raising a question about development
In addition to the attack on the Lalu-Rabri rule, the BJP tried to communalize the electoral discourse. Leading from the front is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. “Time has changed. The country will not be run by Fatwa but it will be run by the Constitution” (Dainik Jagran, Patna, October 30). Yogi Adityanath, speaking in a rally in Vaishali, was attacking the Muslim community. Ironically, the Yogi who is now invoking the Constitution has often violated the Constitutional principle of secularism by advocating Ram Rajya, a theocratic state. Meanwhile, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Dharmendra Pradhan, who shared the dais with Giriraj Singh, referred to Pakistan. He said that the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi while opposing PM Modi, begins to talk about the language of Pakistan. Moreover, he alleged that Gandhi also advocates China (Dainik Jagran, Patna, October 30).
During his election rallies in Bihar, Rajnath Singh made Pakistan, China, border, military electoral issues. Speaking in Bihta and Bakhtiyarpur, he expressed concern that Pakistan supports terrorism, and Rahul Gandhi, instead of questioning the enemies, is attacking the Modi Government. He then asked Rahul a question: When the Congress government was in power why India lost territory lost to China (Dainik Jagran, Patna, November 1).
In another rally in East Champaran and Vaishali districts, Rajnath invoked the image of blood and sacrifice: “Whenever the time has come, the jawans of Bihar have sacrificed their lives for the motherland. When China intruded Indian territory, (Bihari) jawans have laid their lives in the defence of the country. We will not let it go in vain”.
In sum, the BJP’s strategy is to portray the Modi Government as a nationalist government that is committed to protecting the border of the county by giving a befitting reply to the enemies. Contrary to them, the opposition parties are doing dirty politics and by questioning the government they are weakening the country.
Opposed to the BJP, Nitish Kumar and his party JD(U) are using the secular language. Nitish Kumar, during his rallies, uses the language of development to prove that his tenure was far better than Lalu-Rabri Raj. Kumar has focused on development, Bihari pride, and development to minority and lower castes.
Particularly interesting is his attempt to allure the Muslim community. He is hopeful that a good section of Muslims is not averse to voting for his party, unlike the BJP. He keeps repeating that his government formed a commission to look into riots and later jailed the culprits and gave relief to the victims.
Speaking in Bhagalpur, Saharsa, and Khagaria, Nitish again reiterated how his government gave reliefs to those who were victims of the Bhagalpur riots. (Dainik Jagran, Patna, November 1, 2020).
Moreover, Nitish Kumar visited Peer Mujibullah’s Mazar (mausoleum) and offered chadar. His picture was published on the front page in Dainik Jagran, Patna, October 31). He was seen wearing a cap, holding the chadar on the top of his head. He also claimed that if he is reelected he would assist youths from minority, Dalit, and Mahadalit communities with Rs 10 lakh.
Meanwhile, JD(U) State President Bashistha Narayan Singh, in a news report, claimed that Rashtirya Alpasankhyak Aarakshan Morcha has announced its support to JDU. Note that the JD(U) State President said that the minority body is supporting JD(U) without any reference to the BJP (Dainik Jagran, Patna, October 31). He also claimed that minorities regard Nitish as his well-wisher, stating that during Nitish rule (532 crores) allotted more budge to the minorities than Lalu-Rabri rule (3.45 crore). In another rally in West Champaran, Nitish talked about giving reservation as per the population (Dainik Jagran, Patna, October 30).
(Abhay Kumar is a Ph.D. from JNU. He is broadly interested in Minority and Social Justice. Earlier, he held a Post-Graduate Diploma in English Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and worked as a Delhi-based reporter with The Indian Express. You may write to him at email@example.com).