Congress’ state unit is organizing a ‘Jan Akansha’ rally at the historic Gandhi Maidan on 3 February, which will be attended by party chief Rahul Gandhi. (HT)
Congress’ state unit is organizing a ‘Jan Akansha’ rally at the historic Gandhi Maidan on 3 February, which will be attended by party chief Rahul Gandhi. (HT)

Ahead of Lok Sabha elections, parties shift their focus to Bihar

  • NDA, Grand Alliance eye 40 Lok Sabha seats and plan to use public meetings to showcase their strength
  • Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar will be attending meetings together for the first time along with other JD(U), BJP, LJP leaders

NEW DELHI : The stage for the high-stakes battle has shifted to Bihar with the two main contenders, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and opposition-led Grand Alliance, set to hold mega public meetings in Patna next month. Both sides are eyeing the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state and will use the occasion as a show of strength.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA plans to hold a public meeting in Patna with most of the top leadership in attendance, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress’ state unit is organizing a “Jan Akansha" rally at the historic Gandhi Maidan on 3 February, which will be attended by party chief Rahul Gandhi.

For NDA, this will be the first election meeting that will be attended by both Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, along with other leaders of Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), BJP and Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP), which is headed by Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

“BJP-NDA combine had done very well in Bihar in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The alliance is strong in Bihar and we are in a comfortable position. The work done by the state government along with the development work of the NDA at the centre will be the central theme of the campaign. Both the governments have worked for the state, have clear leadership and we are confident of our performance," said a senior BJP leader based in Patna, requesting anonymity.

(Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint)

BJP and JD(U) leaders also said Kumar will soon start a statewide campaign, across nine different zones comprising four districts. “Nitish Kumar will hold at least one public meeting in all these nine zones and hold other small meetings in each district, which will comprise people from different professions and caste groups. The state government is keen to showcase its work and remind the people of the corrupt administration that was provided by former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad," said a senior JD(U) leader who is overseeing this campaign, requesting anonymity.

To further strengthen the ground network of JD(U), senior leaders have decided to recruit at least 2,000 volunteers aged 18-35 years from each of the 38 districts who would work as foot soldiers at every polling booth. “Apart from being at the polling booth, these volunteers would also lead the social media campaign of JD(U) so that the development message of JD(U)-BJP reaches most people," the JD(U) leader added.

Bihar is crucial for both the NDA and the Grand Alliance. While the ruling alliance hopes to repeat its 2014 performance in the state with Nitish Kumar at the helm, and the popularity of Modi leading the alliance at the national level, Bihar will be one of the biggest test for the opposition alliance, which includes Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and RLSP, among others.

“All the constituents of the mahagatbandhan in Bihar will be attending the public meeting. We are still working out the details and by next week, we will know if opposition parties from outside the state will also be called. Congress’s state unit will hold a meeting in Gandhi Maidan after a gap of nearly 25 years," said Madan Mohan Jha, Congress’s Bihar president.

Much along the lines of the JD(U), Congress too has got its cadre working for the rally. At least two to three observers have been appointed for each district, especially for the rally, to ensure maximum participation. The party is hopeful that the rally will give it a fillip in the state, which was once its bastion, but has witnessed considerable electoral erosion.