Silent Churning

By not letting Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi campaign in Bihar, Nitish has managed to make inroads into the Muslim community
Akash Bisht Delhi 

Congress leaders had refused to believe that the Ayodhya judgement would have any impact on the Bihar assembly elections. They dismissed off-hand and with disgust the idea that there could be a churning on the ground, with a possibility that the verdict might lead to a polarisation of Muslim votes away from Congress towards Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD.

However, much to their dismay, reports from ground zero suggest that Muslims have decided to abandon Congress in favour of RJD. Many from the community blame the Congress for the verdict based on 'faith'.   

Mohan Prakash, secretary of All India Congress Committee, who was recently in Bihar, confidently dismissed all such claims and said, "No one is talking about Ayodhya and people have grown wise enough to leave such issues behind. No churning is happening in the state." 

However, a Bihar-based politicalobserver agreed that the Muslims are feeling alienated and believe that the Congress has backstabbed them on the Babri Masjid issue. "No one is talking about it openly, but the Muslims have tacitly decided to vote for RJD and JD(U)," he said.  

With BJP deciding against raising the mandir issue in its campaign, political observers believe that Nitish Kumar stands to gain from BJP's eerie silence. 

"By not letting Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi campaign in Bihar, Nitish has managed to make inroads into the Muslim community. His decision to fence Muslim graveyards in the state could also turn in his favour. But his alliance with BJP would be a hindrance," said an expert.

Also, Nitish's politics of development has forced every other party on to the backfoot. "People in Bihar are for the first time shedding their caste inhibitions and considering development as the main poll issue," said an expert. The condition of roads, the law and order situation, and 50 per cent reservation for women in local body elections - besides the way Nitish has expertly played the maha-dalit card - are some of the factors that could make him emerge as a clear winner. 

To woo the minority vote, Congress decided to field 47 Muslim candidates in the elections for 243 assembly seats. Initially perceived as a trump card, this has now become a dud after the controversial verdict let down the Muslim community.   

However, with the minority community shifting focus from Congress to RJD and JD(U), the grand old party's dream of making an electoral dent in Bihar politics remains far fetched. "The verdict is the result of Congress's middle-ground politics and the Muslims know it. Congress and BJP are like twin sisters, hence the Muslim vote is bound to tilt the result in favour of RJD," claimed Monazir Hassan, a senior JD(U) leader and MP from Begusarai.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: NOVEMBER 2010