With Bihar votes to elect a new assembly being under way, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is facing uncomfortable questions about who would be its chief ministerial (CM) candidate, if it comes to power, on November 8.
Names of several BJP leaders are doing rounds with one of them being that of Gaya MLA Prem Kumar, who has never lost an election since 1990, and is one of the longest serving legislators in Bihar.
On 14 October, his name was announced, by BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain, as the likely chief ministerial candidate, which has boosted his supporters to no end. Soon after the announcement, his election campaign was transformed into one staking claim to the CM’s office.
During a roadshow of the BJP leader, his supporters shouted slogans such as “Bihar ka CM kaisa ho, Prem Kumar jaisa ho (Bihar’s CM should be like Prem Kumar)” and “Khaali kar do raaste, Kumar ke vaaste (Make way for Prem Kumar)”.
During a nukkad sabha in Gaya, one of his senior party workers announced that Kumar will hold an important position in Patna, after November 8. Kumar told CNN-IBN, “I don’t have anything to say about this (Hussain’s announcement). A decision in this regard will be taken by the party.”
Confident of NDA’s victory, Kumar said, “People are rejecting the grand alliance of Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad-Sonia Gandhi. They will soon be a thing of past. Our alliance will come to power on November 8. Wait and watch.”
When asked about the slow pace of the development work in Gaya, he said, “I have set up a special team, comprising some respectable citizens, to look into all issues concerning Gaya, and ensure the region’s development.”
Talking about the drying Phalgu river, considered sacred by Hindus, the BJP MLA said, the process to connect it with larger rivers has begun, and the dry river would not be dry anymore.
When asked why BJP candidates have criminal records, the BJP MLA said, “When one joins politics, several false allegations are leveled against him/her. The criminal charges on BJP leaders may not be true, but in politics one must be ready to face all such charges.”
When asked if the caste permutation was working in NDA’s favour, Kumar replied with the BJP’s slogan – “Sabka Saath Sabka Vishwas”, adding his party would never resort to caste politics.
Voters feel the margin of Kumar’s victory may remain as low as 3,000 to 4,000 votes.
Lined up against Kumar are, Priya Ranjan alias Dimple of Congress, and independent candidate Raju Barnwal. The latter is likely to cut into Kumar’s votes.
Having been locked in a bloody conflict in the 1990s, which saw a string of massacres in Bihar’s Jehanabad district, the land owning castes, and deprived Dalits, now appear to be sailing on the same boat in the state assembly polls.
The coming together of BJP, largely considered a party of upper castes and baniyas, who are considered OBCs in the state, and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), has made possible what was unthinkable a few years ago.