Darbhanga, associated with alleged IM mastermind Yasin Bhatkal and its own terror module, brings out the contrasting strategies on which the major parties are fighting the elections in Bihar.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar continues to be accused of inaction against Bhatkal for “misguiding” young men in creating the “Darbhanga module”. The BJP, which is banking on Narendra Modi, holds the seat but its efforts to retain it are up against local disillusionment with sitting MP Kirti Azad, who has been fielded again. The BJP got Modi to address a rally for the former cricketer .
For its part, the JD(U) is banking on its development agenda. Its candidate is first-timer Sanjay Jha.
The RJD effort to wrest it back is centred around its candidate, Mohd Ali Ashraf Fatmi, a veteran who has represented the seat for 13 years. The seat has a considerable Muslim population, who lead on the overall count, followed by Brahmins and Yadavs.
The three parties held rallies Sunday that highlighted their contrasting strategies. Hard-selling development, Nitish said Bihar does not need a “divisive” Modi or “lantern man” Lalu Prasad when the state is “electrified and developed”. Lalu tried to convey to Muslims he alone could safeguard their interests. And BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi hoped the Modi factor would see Azad through.
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Many who are ready for Modi at the Centre would, however, rather not have Azad winning again. They see him as a “non-performer”.
“We want Modi at the Centre but Azad has done little for us. Last time he won in the name of Nitish Kumar and this time, he wants to hide behind Modi’s name,” says Satish Kumar of Darbhanga.
Ironically, even some JD(U) workers share this view of Modi and Azad. “Let there be Narendra Modi at the top but we want Kirti Azad to lose,” says a JD(U) worker.
Azad and Sanjay Jha are Brahmin candidates, which has divided the community. “While campaigning, Kirti dons a Modi mask. We do want Modi. We also think about Sanjay Jha but think it will be a waste of votes as Nitish is losing ground,” said Sukesh Jha, who had come to listen to Nitish’s speech. The turnout was poor despite a tent to protect people from the sun.
At Baheda, barely 4 km from Nitish’s meeting venue, Lalu Prasad’s rally got a huge crowd, and Fatmi pointed this out to him: “Everyone wants to listen to the champion of Dalits, backward and Muslims, Lalu Prasad,” he said. Lalu seemed pleased at the sight of the cheering crowd. Some of his famous wit was on display in his speech.
An elderly Muslim, Mohammed Sarfuddin, says: “Laluji has established a great connect with Muslims. We have always been his supporters. Nitish has done a lot for us but looks much behind in the race.” He adds that Fatmi has the image of a liberal Muslim and commands a large base among Hindus as well.
But even Lalu Prasad’s rally had some Modi fans. Harikishen Yadav says: “The majority will vote for Laluji but there would be some votes for Modiji. At times, we get confused… On one hand we have our great caste leader, on the other hand we want change at the Centre.”