Patna, Aug. 20: Not just for Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad and their newly forged alliance, the stakes are as high for the BJP’s prospective chief ministerial candidate, Sushil Kumar Modi, in tomorrow’s by-elections to 10 Assembly seats.
Modi has been commandeering the state BJP for quite some time now. He was deputy to then chief minister Nitish Kumar for over seven years, was his party’s leader in the Legislative Council and enjoyed the senior most position in the BJP’s Bihar hierarchy.
Now, he is the BJP’s parliamentary party leader (the boss in both the Assembly and Legislative Council), which places him a notch above leader of Opposition in the Assembly Nand Kishore Yadav in the pecking order.
Tomorrow’s bypoll is, probably, the first time that Modi has got the chance to spearhead the BJP campaign on his own, with national leaders staying away. In a way, Modi is the party’s “star campaigner” with other state leaders playing second fiddle to him.
In his speeches too, Modi has been trying to stamp his authority. “Take it that I am contesting the election here,” Modi said at an election meeting at Chhapra on Saturday.
If the BJP repeats its stupendous Lok Sabha performance in the by-election, the results for which are expected on Monday, the credit will be Modi’s. It will bolster his and his party’s campaign to project him as the chief ministerial candidate for next year’s Assembly elections.
But if the party fails to notch up an appreciable tally against the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance, he might have hurdles impeding his chief ministerial aspirations. The grapevine has it that Modi already has some powerful rivals, among them Nand Kishore, senior MLAs Prem Kumar and Satyadeo Narayan Arya, in the chief ministerial stakes.
Ironically, though the by-elections are crucial for the state’s three heavyweights — Nitish, Lalu and Modi — the seats involved are being fought by lightweight candidates or electoral rookies. The BJP-led NDA has debutant candidates Nabhay Choudhary (Bhagalpur), Kanhaiya Singh (Chhapra), Rashmi Verma (Narkatiaganj) and Suheli Mehta (Parbatta). The JDU-RJD-Congress alliance has rookie nominees Randhir Singh (Chhapra), Chandrashekhar Paswan (Mohania) and Rishi Mishra (Jale), all contesting polls for the first time.
The immediate electoral history of the state is heavily loaded in the BJP’s favour. Except in Banka, the party had led in all the other nine Assembly segments where the by-election will be held tomorrow in the Lok Sabha polls. Besides, it had won six of the 10 seats in the 2010 Assembly elections.
On the other hand, Lalu and Nitish have struck a “grand alliance” involving their RJD and JDU besides the Congress to stop the BJP’s surge. If the alliance succeeds in its gameplan, the equations will have to be reworked once the countdown begins for next year’s big test.