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Lalu wake-up call for BJP

New Delhi, Dec. 19: The BJP plans to push Narendra Modi’s backward caste antecedents with “renewed vigour” to try and contain the Lalu Prasad “effect” in Bihar, said a source from the state.

Aware that the RJD chief had returned to being “combative” after his release from jail and was packing in “more than a punch” in his campaign against Modi, the source said now was the time for the BJP to regroup backward caste voters of Bihar and stop them from being “poached upon” by Lalu.

In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s neighbour, the RSS has unleashed its “pracharaks” (full-time propagandists) to go into the villages, identify backward caste leaders and opinion-moulders and tell them it was important to vote Modi because India would then get its first backward caste prime minister. The message has percolated to a large extent among rural voters. Anecdotal evidence picked up during a recent travel through central and eastern Uttar Pradesh suggests that in quite a few villages, Samajwadi Party and BSP supporters were gravitating towards the BJP because of Modi.

“In Bihar, too, we want to disseminate the same message. We wish to tell people that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan etc. have had backward caste chief ministers but the country has not been fortunate to have a backward caste prime minister. We also want to stress that without the numbers, state leaders like Lalu and Mulayam Singh Yadav don’t have a chance of making it to the top job. Modi has the backing of a large national party. The wheel must turn a full circle,” the source said.

Until Lalu burst on the scene, the BJP’s claim was it would even get the votes of some Yadavs, a committed RJD vote-bank because of the community’s “antipathy” for Nitish Kumar and its “determination” to vote him out.

The BJP was already counting on the support of the other backward castes excluding the Kurmis, the community Nitish belongs to. The axis it looked at to exceed its tally of 12 MPs in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls centred around upper castes, a big chunk of the backward castes and some Dalits.

Lalu’s comeback upset the apple-cart in that the BJP admitted the RJD’s alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan and a prospective tie-up with the Congress would reconsolidate the Muslim and Yadav votes and might act like a magnet to draw in other backward castes.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the two states the BJP has banked upon heavily to take it to the 200 or 200-plus Lok Sabha tally. If it achieves these numbers, they would not only make the BJP the fulcrum of the next coalition at the Centre but shore up Modi’s elevation as the prime minister. Anything less would mess up the numbers’ game and throw open the space for other prime-ministerial contenders to play for the power stakes.