Against such a backdrop, the NDA had sufficient cause for optimism. However, the visible tilt of the electorate towards the GA has put out the fire in their belly. A district president of the BJP who hails from Magadha zone says the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remark that the reservation policy must be reviewed is hurting the party. “Mohan Bhagwat has ruined the fate of the NDA candidates. He must have done some kind of deal with Nitish Kumar,” he says.
The long queues of women at the polling stations may cause further jitters to the saffron party. “We are sympathetic towards Nitish because he has done a lot for women including 50 percent reservation in the elections for local bodies,” says Tetari Devi from Jehanabad. She became a fan when he, in his first tenure as CM, announced gifting of bicycles to students. “My daughter is now doing graduation. It was the provision of bicycles which tempted her to pursue education.”
Ram, the sarpanch of Babhnaul village in Dinara constituency and a Balmiki by caste, has come to cast his vote for the JD(U). “The upper castes of my village prefer BJP but the OBCs, EBCs and the Mahadalits, barring rat-eaters and Paswans have voted for Nitish Kumar,” he says.
Renowned social scientist Saibal Gupta, who initially believed that the NDA had an edge, now thinks Bhagwat’s statement on reservation has given a lease of life to the GA. “I have confirmed information about the OBCs and some EBCs of the 114 sub-castes mobilising in favour of GA during the two phases,” he says. “Even a sizeable chunk from the Mahadalits are scared of scrapping of reservation in jobs if the BJP is voted to power. This notion is harming the NDA candidates.”
The Dadri murder has also become a boon for the GA. The long lines of voters in areas dominated by the weaker sections tell a story in themselves. A Muslim youth who did not want to be named says, “I came to my hometown of Sasaram from Dubai to vote for Lalu Prasad so that the BJP can be defeated.”
The consolidation of the Muslim vote was not anticipated in the initial days of campaigning. A former minister who recently joined BJP tells Tehelka that he now regrets the decision. “This party has no concerns about development. The only agenda on its hidden manifesto is to divide the society along communal lines and take electoral advantage,” he says.
Narendra Modi’s three rallies on 16 October were cancelled after the Delhi leadership gathered clear information from the ground about the poor performance of the NDA during the second phase of polling even if the former addresses people. Though the BJP denied that any meeting of the Prime Minister was scheduled on that date, Tehelka has substantial evidence to prove that the DMs of the three districts were alerted about his proposed meetings.
KC Tyagi, national general secretary of JD(U), also tells Tehelka that he has definite information about the three meetings to be addressed by the pm which were cancelled for reasons well known to public as well as leaders belonging to the BJP.
Understandably, with a motive to compensate for palpable damage, the Prime Minister has decided to address 13 meetings ahead of the three phases to be held on 28 October, 1 November and 5 November respectively. A top leader of the BJP who met this correspondent at an airport lounge bemoans, “We have only 30 candidates in the 81 seats that went to poll while remaining are from the allies. I am personally hopeful that in the coming phases, the BJP will be able to make up for the loss. But it is difficult to predict the performance of the alliance partners.”
However, Sushil Kumar Modi, chief ministerial aspirant, claims that the nda would win at least 56 of the 81 seats that went to poll. “The enthusiasm among the voters during the two rounds of voting indicated that the electorates wanted a change in the state,” he says. “During my whirlwind tours for campaigning, I felt the people are fans of the Narendra Modi model of development and they do not want to be trapped in the Jungle Raj once again.”
On the other hand, JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh claims that the alliance will win at least 60 seats in the two phases of polling. He adds that traditional voters of the NDA have thrown their weight behind the GA, a view also endorsed by RJD spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwary.
Meanwhile, the blue-blooded morning walkers, who used to predict tirelessly about the grand victory of the NDA are now overheard forecasting, “Lalu Prasad will pose numerous hurdles to Nitish Kumar in running the government. The government will fall within six months.” Now the readers have to guess who wins and who loses the crucial battle of Bihar.