In the closing hours of the campaign, it seems both sides (the NDA and the Grand Alliance) are desperately engaged in propaganda war. There are very little to educate and more to arouse the voters.
The Bihari voters would make their right choice, regardless. However, some propaganda can be dangerous and may have long-term pernicious impact. The Nitish-Lalu side, for example, falsely accuses that the BJP would create troubles at some spots where Durga Puja or Chhath are held to provoke riots against the minorities. The NDA has lodged complaints with the Election Commission.
On the other side, attempts have been made to raise controversy over beef-eating. The Hindu zealots within the BJP should understand they may not be able to take the party to the victory stand if they harp on non-issues like this. They don’t have much support from the Muslim minorities in Bihar and they haven’t sponsored many Muslim candidates either. Muslim votes do matter in Bihar.
The secular progressive minded people within the BJP or its sympathizers don't consider beef eating to be a taboo. In foreign countries, beef and pork mixed cuisines are available everywhere and the Hindus and the Muslims exclude them from their orders according to their preference. But they haven't been able to enforce this discipline on their second or the third generation kids.
This is one place where Lalu was right when he admitted the Hindus also ate beef (they ate during the Vedic period as well), but he didn't have the guts to stand by his statement. Narendra Modi hammered him hard. It’s yet to be seen if this tactic turns out to be effective or not.
The Nitish side has in a very calculated way sought to soak the election campaign in provincial sentiments. First, the DNA issue. Nitish charged that Narendra Modi had insulted the Biharis by questioning the DNA of Nitish, and, therefore, the Swabhiman rally. Now, he is talking about choosing a Bihari over Baahari (outsiders). He might be hinting at Sushil Modi because of his Marwari background, or Narendra Modi himself. In any case, turning the election campaign parochial in this manner by a sitting Chief Minister is not desirable at all. Lalu has already filled his speeches with backward-forward rhetoric reminding the Biharis of his “Bhu-Ra-Baal-Saaf-Karo” slogan of his hey days. In Western democracies, his utterances would be called racist. Amazingly, Lalu’s circulation in politics is an acknowledgement of the unique culture of Bihar.
Narendra Modi has also been talking about Yaduvanshi or Rajvanshi stuff thereby attempting to make direct appeal to castes. It does not behoove a Prime Minister of a democratic country like India. The Owaisis are making incandescent speeches, but people are keeping calm so far. The administration should have swung into action against them for making blatantly hate speech.
The media and different poll surveys are contributing their own fair share in distracting (or, may be focusing) the voters’ attention. We are constantly reminded they have their own agenda and are sponsored by their patrons.
In a poll survey conducted between October 5 and October 8, 2015, the Zee Media give 54 percent electorate to the NDA and 40.2 percent to the Grand Alliance. Only 5.8 percent to Others. It says if the election were conducted today, the NDA would be leading in 162 seats, the GA in 51 and the remaining 30 seats would have very close fight. An earlier survey supported by the CSDS, New Delhi, also projected the NDA as the winner. In 2010, the BJP had won 94 seats and the JD (U)141 as NDA partners.
However, Axis-My India poll for CNN-IBN gives the BJP-led NDA only 108 seats; the JD(U)-RJD combine 137 seats (41% of the votes). According to its survey, the JD(U) alone will have unbelievable 89 out of 100 seats with 26 per cent of the votes. The RJD will secure 48 out of 100 seats and 15 per cent votes. The Congress will secure 20 out of the 40 seats it is contesting. The BJP trails behind with 95 seats and 29 per cent vote share. It predicts the BJP allies LJP, RLSP and HAM could secure only 13 seats and 9 per cent vote share. Another survey by India Today group-Cicero also gives the winning edge to the GA with 122 seats against 110 to the NDA.
It’s not clear how accurate is the methodology, how big or small is the sample, what's the margin of error etc. but, it certainly looks like there’s not going to be a cake walk for either of the two. The voters of Bihar should be smarter.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He has authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.