- Point One: BJP must have a clear strategy to expose the blatant Muslim vote-bank politics of the opposition. A smart strategy for the saffron party would be to convert this election into a “development” v/s “return to jungle raj” election at the macro level while creating a Hindu v/s Muslim fight at the micro level by subtly campaigning for reverse polarization as nearly 96% Muslims are likely to vote for the Nitish Kumar led alliance. If 1.2 Cr Muslim votes can polarize on one side, then BJP has the opportunity to tap 5 Cr plus Hindu votes on the other side of the secular spectrum. For instance, one important aspect of this strategy should come from the larger Sangh Parivaar by interacting with the villagers about BJP’s commitment for total beef-ban which has important Hindu connotations in the heartland
- Point Two: Nitish Kumar is a quintessential Bihari brand and BJP has not yet realized the depth of his appeal to the new Bihari voter. His potential to run a popular and successful campaign is second to none if he sticks to his message of governance as he did in 2005 and 2010, but when pushed to a corner, he makes mistakes like he did in the run up to 2014 when he became defensive and started going back to “secularism” and “social justice” platforms which no longer have the same appeal to Hindu voters as they did in the 80’s and 90’s. If Nitish runs a quality campaign based on Bihari pride and good governance (Bihar@2025 is a good example of the same), BJP will be in extreme danger, so the trick is to try and push the Bihar CM into a corner and not let him bloom without personally attacking him and unwittingly making him a hero. Fortunately there are three weak spots around which BJP can build a campaign without making any frontal personal attacks;
A] Lack of governance in the last two years, ever since Nitish broke away from NDA; this is his Achilles heel, especially because of increased local corruption at the clerical level.
B] JDU’s belittling of a Mahadalit, former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, who must be portrayed as an extreme backward victim/hero and
C] Lalu Prasad and his Yadav-Jungle-Raj is a big detriment for Nitish Kumar’s young new voters
- Point Three: No doubt caste is important in the heartland, but the new post-caste electorate is also a reality which cannot be brushed away. BJP seems to have unlearnt its own lessons of 2014 as it goes into a wooing spree of small sub-castes and communities in Bihar. The local BJP unit has been very busy organizing dozens of caste melas and public rallies of smaller communities over the last few months, whereas Modi had won 2014 by creating a larger Hindu narrative of progress. If BJP falls into this Bihar caste quagmire, it would be able to please no one fully and the entire campaign would go into a tailspin. On the other hand, Nitish Kumar has learnt his lessons and is pitching himself beyond caste calculations which is attracting many youth of the cities and towns cutting across caste-religious lines (something Kejriwal also did successfully in Delhi). Has Modi completely forgotten his United Spectrum of Hindu Votes?!
- Point Four: BJP as a party is structurally at crossroads. For 30 years, BJP has grown by creating outstanding regional political talents, starting from Kalyan Singh in the Uttar Pradesh of late 80’s to B.S. Yeddiyurappa of Karnataka in the 2000’s, this template has produced powerful leaders like Shivraj Singh, Vasundara Raje, Raman Singh and even Narendra Modi, but now there has to be a strategic rethink on this philosophy. In the last year, BJP has won 3 and a half states (including Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu of J&K) without announcing a CM candidate, whereas it lost Delhi partially because it announced Kiran Bedi as the face of the campaign. Prudence should suggest that BJP go into Bihar polls without a CM face so that all factions work for maximizing victory chances. Under unavoidable circumstances if BJP is forced to announce a leader for Bihar polls, then can the party think out of the box and come up with a formidable candidate to take on the still very popular Nitish Kumar? Sushil Modi hardly inspires confidence even in the BJP cadre, let alone the voters of Bihar, so who could then BJP look to provide that momentum? One possibility is Shatrughan Sinha! Yes, this may almost sound insane, but the truth is that Sinha is quite popular among Biharis cutting across caste lines, especially in urban areas. Ideally though, BJP should go into Bihar elections under the clichéd garb of “collective leadership” to derive maximum workmanship from all factions.
- Point Five: The fact that there is brain-drain from BJP is not surprising, but what is alarming is that it has happened so fast – in just about one year of coming to power. More than Modi, BJP has to introspect why it is losing even core professional support base like CAG (which is reportedly working for JDU and Nitish Kumar in Bihar). The scale of 2014 electoral victory of Modi came about because of significant support from non-BJP and non-Sangh sources who have been totally neglected since then. Broadly, these unofficial support bases can be clubbed together into three groupings; A] Internet Hindus of the online Right-wing variety, B] Spiritual ecosystems of the likes of Baba Ramdev, AOL et al. and C] Professional support groups like CAG, India 272 (NiTi Digital) and a whole host of commentators from the CRI, Indiafacts, Swarajya and other online blogging communities. Has the BJP ever tried to interact, indulge or even engage with any of these groups since coming to power? Instead who has the BJP been hobnobbing with? The same old Lutyens brigade of the NDTV/Barkha variety or big celebrities still find favor from the powers that be in the BJP. In fact, the powerful BJP set of Delhi seem to have developed an unhealthy dislike for all these pro-Right and pro-Dharma groups. Bottom line is that Congress has been replaced by BJP in Dilli, but the ecosystems remain the same, if this does not change in the run-up to Bihar elections then rest assured another February 2015 Delhi scenario will unfold with an even tighter slap on the Right cheek.