Election to Bihar Assembly later this year is pregnant with possibilities after former students’ leader Kanhaiya Kumar and poll strategist Prashant Kishor threw their hats in the ring. With Opposition looks in tatters in the absence of RJD stalwart Lalu Prasad who is serving a jail term in a case of corruption.
Ruling JDU-BJP-LJP alliance was absolutely confident of a comeback riding on the goodwill and popularity of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar until a couple of weeks ago. Now, the angry reactions by JDU leaders in particular to developments involving Prashant Kishor and Kanhaiya Kumar betray some kind of anxiety in the ruling NDA.
Kanhaiya Kumar is on a pan-Bihar tour – named Jan Gan Man Yatra – that began in January-end and will conclude in March. His public rallies have seen huge attendance. People returning from his rallies admit that Kanhaiya Kumar has the knack of establishing connect with his audience, and that the real problems of Bihar seem to be in his focus.
Some political observers in Bihar already see him as one of the future leaders of Bihar notwithstanding his abject failure in the Lok Sabha election from Begusarai seat in 2019.
Kanhaiya Kumar had contested the Lok Sabha election as CPI candidate. The CPI does not have a sizeable electoral presence in Bihar even if it is capable of enforcing a state-wide shut down during a hartal. The CPI does not have an organisation to pose any serious challenge to Nitish Kumar’s return in Bihar Assembly election.
But when Prashant Kishor entered the fray with a press conference earlier this week and spoke about having been in consultation with Kanhaiya Kumar, it became the talk of political town in Bihar. Prashant Kishor has a resume that makes any political opponent nervous despite his failures with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
Soon people started comparing Kanhaiya Kumar’s Jan Gan Man Yatra with the state-wide tour undertaken by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh in the run-up to the assembly election there. Prashant Kishor was the brain nuancing election strategy of Jagan Mohan. His Praja Sankalp Yatra brought a seemingly unassailable N Chandrababu Naidu, who had begun setting his eye on New Delhi.
Suddenly, yatra politics is taking off in Bihar. The fact that Nitish Kumar too emerged as the face of Bihar with the Nyay Yatra in 2005 after breaking away from Lalu Prasad. Since then Nitish Kumar has been undertaking state-wide yatra almost every year. This has helped Nitish Kumar gauge the mood of the people and respond in elections accordingly. His latest pan-Bihar tour was undertaken in December-January.
Kanhaiya Kumar’s Bihar Jan Gan Man Yatra is also being compared with Nitish Kumar’s 2005 Nyay Yatra. Nitish Kumar got huge popular response. Kanhaiya Kumar’s rallies are also being attended in good numbers. But unlike Nitish Kumar, Kanhaiya Kumar is also being pelted with stones at times, apparently over sedition charge following alleged anti-national sloganeering on JNU campus in 2016.
His state-wide yatra has brought in focus the importance of ground-level politics in Bihar with two more young leaders deciding to hit the streets. RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav is kicking off his Berojgari Yatra to campaign against the Nitish Kumar government over failure to generate enough employment in the state.
LJP chief Chirag Paswan, the son of Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, is embarking on his “Bihar First, Bihari First” tour from February 21. Chirag Paswan’s tour is more about conveying the message that the leadership has passed on in the LJP from Ram Vilas Paswan, a Dalit leader, to him. Chirag Paswan hopes to get similar acceptance as his father both among the masses and LJP’s allies – the BJP and the JDU in the year of Bihar Assembly election.
With Nitish Kumar still flogging the NDA horse in Bihar, the emergence of aspiring charioteers on the election field is likely to keep the battle for state politically tantalizing.
Nitish Kumar has proven political acumen and organisational strength of the JDU, BJP and most probably the LJP as well. His rivals Tejaswi Yadav banks on the appeal of his father Lalu Prasad and support of the Muslim voters, with the Congress just coming along.
The entry of Kanhaiya Kumar and Prashant Kishor opens up a new window to look through in Bihar election. Kanhaiya Kumar is establishing connect with the masses while Prashant Kishor just announced his aim of building an organisation of 1 crore people by June this year. He announced ‘Baat Bihar Ki’ programme to reach out to each of over 45,000 villages which will be voting for 8,406 panchayats later this year.
If Kanhaiya Kumar and Prashant Kishor go on to join hands and get the backing of an organisation of their own or some other party, they may be eyeing to engineer a Kejriwal in Bihar. At his press conference, Prashant Kishor repeatedly referred to a blueprint for Bihar’s progress.
News Source: India Today