Manoj Chaurasia in Patna
After seven consecutive years in power, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has begun to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and arch-rival, RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
During his RJD government's 15 years in power, Prasad was infamous for holding rallies. Kumar now looks to be primarily focussing on just two things: undertaking yatras across the state and holding rallies. Kumar's efforts are aimed at attracting the attention of the masses at regular intervals until the dates of the Lok Sabha elections are announced.
In line with his long-term game-plan, the chief minister has now deputed all 17 JD-U ministers in the NDA government to supervise preparations for the much-publicised Aadhikar Rally to be held at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on 6 November to press for Special Category status for Bihar. The chief minister passed this order while presiding over a meeting of top JD-U functionaries at his official residence here today.
The ministers have been directed to supervise rally preparations at the district level, with some ministers even tasked to look after preparations in more than one district. Bihar has 38 districts. The chief minister has even drawn up a mass mobilisation campaign for the next four months and instructed ministers to go all-out to make the rally a major success.
Significantly, all 12 BJP ministers have been kept out of the rally though the issue concerns the entire state, and the BJP has been campaigning for this demand side-by-side its alliance partner.
Even the deputy chief minister, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, who is considered close to the chief minister, has not been given any role in the rally ~ another indication of a widening gap between the ruling partners in the NDA government.
Although the purpose of the rally, on the surface, is to press for granting Special Category status to Bihar ~ a demand which has already been shot down by the Centre ~ the inside story is that the JD-U is trying hard to galvanise its voters through such public programmes and keep them in "poll mode" ahead of the next general election, which is still two years away.
In addition to the rally, the chief minister has been constantly undertaking yatras across the state to win over the hearts of the masses and address any grievances they might have, then and there. In the past three years, Kumar has undertaken as many as five such yatras.
Curiously, the chief minister has suddenly begun chalking out party programmes quite intensively in the aftermath of the prevailing sourness between the two partners over the issue of a “secular” PM candidate.
What is even more peculiar is that the JD-U has been constantly “targeting” the BJP with clinical perfection without showing any kind of animosity in public, constantly using "goody-goody" for its alliance partner.
“We have a 16-year-old alliance and our bond is very strong,” is what the JD-U leaders keep on telling the media, even as it continues its “poaching” drive.
Yesterday, the JD-U lured senior BJP leader Sanjay Jha into the party and reports are that many more BJP members will be inducted into the JD-U very soon. The BJP, on the other hand, is said to be planning to lure away rebel JD-U leaders, including Upendra Kushwaha and Chhedi Paswan.