| Nitish Kumar addresses an election meeting at Chanpatia in West Champaran at the last day of campaigning on Saturday. Telegraph picture |
Patna, May 10: Before the elections were announced, the JD(U) declared it had done its poll arithmetic — 27% EBCs, 17% Muslims and 12% Mahadalits. After just two rounds of polling, they realised they had got it all wrong.
The Muslim votes were not coming. The EBC votes were getting divided. A fatal blow came when the party’s Kishanganj candidate, Akhtarul Iman, announced his withdrawal from the contest on the pretext of avoiding a split in Muslim votes.
Expelled JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari’s statement at Rajgir last year that the party did not have even 40 candidates to field in the 40 seats had begun haunting the party. He had also said that many of the candidates were taken from the RJD or BJP.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar started off his campaign harping on his efforts to get special status for the state. “But words like Raghuram Rajan committee and special status did not strike a chord with the crowd. It appeared alien to them. He could not match Lalu Prasad or Narendra Modi’s oratory,” remarked a senior JD(U) leader.
Nitish changed track mid-way through his campaign when he hinted he was more qualified than Narendra Modi to become Prime Minister of the country.
But the damage had been done, as EBCs, Muslims and other voters declared that in the current Lok Sabha polls they were looking at New Delhi and not Patna.
Nitish also focused his attack on Narendra Modi. “How can he become the prime minister when millions of Muslims fear him?”
He even asked for votes on the basis of work he has done in Bihar. “Apna majdoori maang kar raha hoon (I am seeking wages for work done),” he said at his meetings, stressing also that he was not asking for votes on the basis of caste and religion.
Nitish also attacked his bęte noire, Lalu Prasad, asking voters if they wanted to return to the lantern (a pun on the RJD’s symbol and erratic or no power supply) age instead of getting electricity.
At later meetings, he warned people that his government could fall if his party performed badly in the Lok Sabha elections. “I have endangered my government because of my principles. I will have no regret if it goes,” he remarked.
But Nitish has been fighting from a disadvantaged position from the very beginning as several opinion polls showed the JD(U) would get seats in single digits.
JD(U) leaders disputed the opinion polls but never got over the predictions.
But without the BJP cadre to help them bring voters to the booths, desperation has gripped JD(U) leaders.
Leaders like state JD(U) chief Bashishtha Narayan Singh claim his party would not get more than what opinion polls have predicted. Party workers also point towards several ministers like Narendra Singh and Brishen Patel, who are missing from the campaign trail.
If opinion polls are proved correct on counting day (May 16), Nitish will have a lot to worry about.