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Bihar Polls: Lalu-Nitish combo aka NiLu are giving PM Modi a tough time
Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, whom voters of Bihar now refer to as NiLu in jest have settled in a well orchestrated campaign. When campaigning began in Bihar for the assembly elections, everything around this Mahagathbandhan or the Grand Alliance was jittery and full of skepticism. Many had even said that much like Mulayam, Lalu too will abandon the Grand Alliance. But that didn't happen and now the duo is proving more than a handful for PM Modi.

Both leaders are campaigning for their own candidates and addressing 4-5 rallies every day, covering almost every part of the state. Lalu and Nitish are touching almost every constituency and posing as a unified family without any visible signs of pre-alliance rivalry. As a combined force they will be campaigning for 243 Mahagathbandhan candidates in Bihar.

The odds now seem heavily stacked against the BJP, as its campaign seems to be losing steam. PM Modi addressed his last rally on October 12 and was expected to return on October 16, but now all his rallies in Bihar have been rescheduled to the last week of October. It is needless to say that it might be too late then.  

The problem with the BJP is that it did not project any candidate for the post of chief minister, if they won, while the Grand Alliance campaign has a face in the form of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. Nitish in his rallies and election addresses has been targeting PM Modi as `Bahri' or an outsider, which is a very practical approach, as when PM Modi goes back, NiLu have a lot of time at hand to indulge in a chitter chatter with the Bihari locals.

Another problem being faced by the BJP campaign is the visible lack of unity in the party's Bihar unit. Senior BJP leader and actor-turned politician Shatrughan Sinha is as usual busy raising the flag of revolt against his own party, so in Narendra Modi's absence there is no credible local leader who can take the reins of the campaign in his hands. 

While Modi is a crowd puller, other senior BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani have failed to attract even a fraction of the crowd Modi is capable of pulling and has been pulling in his Bihar rallies.

The success of the Grand Alliance's campaign so far cannot be attributed alone to the coming together of two arch rivals Nitish and Lalu, but to also the contrast in which both veteran leaders are campaigning. While Nitish is polite and subtle in his speeches, Lalu is harsh and minces no words for attacking the BJP and Narendra Modi. The ability of NiLu to speak in the local dialect has also helped them in connecting more with the voters of Bihar.

Nitish has been trying hard to tell the people of Bihar that he is not `ghamandi' as the BJP has dubbed him. A fine example of this can be seen from a press conference in Patna on October 10, when Nitish reprimanded a journalist twice as he did not affix `Shri' while naming Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Later on he told the gathered reporters about the need of courtesy and civility in public life.

While Nitish has been polite and non-controversial in his election speeches, Lalu has been calling the BJP and PM Modi names, which I dare not even mention. He has even called Modi a devil (brahm pishach) and promised to exorcise him of his ghosts. This is a well thought of strategy which has proved a clear winner so far.

The third partner of this Mahagathbandhan, the Congress is a back-bencher in all respects. This entire alliance has been formed more out of compulsion, rather than choice, and this compulsion is for every member of this alliance. The Congress very well knows that alone it does not stand a chance in front of the BJP in Bihar. Congress also had to accommodate two JD (U) MLA's from its allotted seats of Manihari and Govindpuri.

Lalu has already tried his solo luck twice in 2005 and 2010, but without success. Lalu now knows that his vote share is not expected to exceed more than 20 percent, and allying with the BJP would have meant that his minority vote bank would have shrunk even further.

After a drubbing at the hands of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, this compulsion arose even for Nitish Kumar. He very well knows that the traditional BJP voters (Brahmin, Rajput and Bhumihar) will never support him. Besides, he broke apart from the NDA only because Narendra Modi was named as the prime ministerial candidate, so there was no question of him going back to the BJP.

Surprisingly, both Nitish and Lalu have predetermined vote banks which form opposite sides of the socio-political divide of Bihar. Lalu's voter base is of Muslims and Yadavs, while Nitish has the support of Mahadalits and EBCs.

So, my prediction would be that if these three members of the Mahagathbandhan, JD (U), RJD and the Congress are able to hold on to their vote share at par with what they managed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, they will emerge as clear favourites, as the BJP had got 6 percent less votes in 2014 than all of them combined, and that too when the Modi wave was at its peak. Besides, recent turn of events including beef-politics and black-ink politics have also not gone in favour of the BJP, which now looks to be on the back-foot.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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