Local issues relegated to background in clash of personalities

Local issues relegated to background in clash of personalitiesPATNA/BHAGALPUR: That Bihar election has turned into a clash of two personalities is visible when voters here often indicate their preference by either saying ‘Modi’ or ‘Nitish’.

Local factors like choice of candidates and issues affecting constituencies appear to have taken a backseat for people as they prepare to cast their votes on October 12 in the first phase of Assembly election.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies are powering the NDA campaign, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too is leaving no stone unturned to impress upon people that he is the best man to lead the state.

“Nitishe hain (It’s Nitish),” says Bhumika Prasad, a shopkeeper in Munger constituency, arguing that he remains the best bet for Bihar.

“Modi ji will not be running Bihar,” he says when asked about the Prime Minister’s development pitch for the poor state.

While the first clash of two leaders in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 resulted in a setback for the JD (U) leader with his party relegated to number three position, he has put up a spirited, tactical fight in the Assembly polls after teaming up with RJD chief Lalu Prasad.

With the state BJP leaders being kept out of the focus of its high-powered campaign, the saffron party is depending on Modi’s fire power to propel the NDA ahead of the Nitish-led grand alliance.

Party chief Amit Shah is the only person who finds a place besides Modi in the large hoardings exhorting people to vote for lotus, BJP symbol, to usher in development in Bihar.

An interaction with a cross-section of people in different parts of the state suggests that Modi remains a big draw but what is also unmistakable is the goodwill Nitish enjoys, more so among the poor.

“Modi ji is drawing the kind of crowds which no national leader has done in Bihar in a long time. He has his own style.

People also appreciate the work done by Nitish ji,” Ramkant Pathak, a college teacher, says.

The discontent in the NDA camp over official candidate threatens to mar their chances at several places, like Chakai and Bhagalpur, and political sources said it is only a overarching factor like Modi’s appeal that can help them win an election where there is no pronounced wave in any combine’s favor.

It is due to this that the Prime Minister is carrying out an intensive campaign, hoping to tilt the balance in NDA’s favor with his close to two dozen rallies.

The buzz about Nitish campaign may not be as strong but he in his own way is turning the election a referendum on his work, steering clear of his ally Lalu Prasad’s caste pitch and perceived negativity about the RJD’s 15 year rule in the state.

“Bihar will be run by a Bihari not bahri (outsider),” is Nitish’ catchphrase in his rallies as he reminds people that it is not Modi who will rule Bihar if NDA is voted to power but a local and there is no Bihari having better credentials than him.

49 of Bihar’s 243 constituencies will vote in the first phase of the five-stage Bihar polls. The 10 districts going to polls in this phase include Bhagalpur, Munger, Samastipur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Nawada and Jamui.–PTI

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