Several leaders in the Bihar unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party are blaming the trio of Ananth Kumar, Dharmendra Pradhan, both ministers, and state in-charge Bhupinder Yadav for the poor show of the party in the Assembly elections. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former Union minister and Dalit leader of the party said that the state leaders were completely ignored during the election. “Ananth Kumar, Bhupinder Yadav and Dharmendra Pradhan ignored the state leaders from the very first day. For most part of the campaign, they operated from the posh hotel suites near Gandhi Maidan in Patna. In the selection of candidates, they literally chided the state leaders for trying to persuade them to include the names of candidates who were in a position to win their seats. They told the state leaders that they had already shortlisted the candidates on the basis of the reports received from surveys conducted for the last eight months by the agencies engaged by them.” They asked one veteran leader from north Bihar, who has been both an MP and an MLA, to join the campaign in the fourth phase, thus infuriating him.
On 8 November, the state leaders held a review meeting at the BJP office on Birchand Patel Road in Patna and came to the conclusion that ignoring them in the entire electoral process caused the party’s defeat. They cited cases in which candidates, who had migrated from RJD and JDU a day before the last day of the filing of nomination papers, but were given BJP tickets. All such candidates were badly mauled in the elections.
The party giving nominations to the tainted leaders also caused a loss of face in the elections. In Siwan, a notorious criminal who was recognised as a shooter of former RJD strongman and MP Syed Shahbuddin, was made a BJP candidate denying the sitting MLA’s claim. In Nalanda, another criminal, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2010 elections on an RJD ticket was nominated, ignoring the sitting MLA (who was a former chairman of electricity boards in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, both BJP ruled states). Here too the BJP lost.
A senior state leader, who was present in the review meeting, said that the recommendations made by the state leaders regarding candidate selection were thrown in the dustbin by Ananth Kumar and his team.
In a meeting of the central parliamentary board where the candidates’ names were being finalised, a party MP from central Bihar had objected to the candidature of a tainted person, but Ananth Kumar reprimanded him by saying that the name of the candidate was selected on the basis of a survey conducted by an agency engaged by him (Ananth Kumar).
State leaders said that in the earlier elections of 2010 and 2014, they had managed the campaign through their personal contacts, but this time things changed. “There was no personal touch even with the media, which too was managed by these leaders. One leader had the task of ‘handling’ local journalists who covered the BJP as their beat. A central spokesman of the party camping at a hotel in Patna would dictate to journalists feel-good, ‘Shining India’ stories,” a senior party functionary admitted.
Former deputy speaker and senior tribal leader Kariya Munda, who was not invited to campaign, said there was a complete lack of communication between the workers and the leaders.
“The BJP started focusing on a caste-based campaign from the very first day, ignoring issues related to development. The campaign against jungle raj was also aimed at just one caste leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav. The party’s thrust on caste politics was evident when BJP leaders declared Chandragupta Maurya and Emperor Ashok as Kushwahas and organised grand functions in the districts to woo the Kushwaha voters. But only one nominee of Upendra Kushwaha’s RSLP was elected,” said a political science professor with the Patna University.
The state leaders are so upset with the defeat that they did not participate in any Diwali festivities. Former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi did not receive annual Diwali greetings and when asked, his staff told journalists, “Ab kya reh gaya hai (what is left now)?”
Nand Kishore Yadav, who narrowly won from the Patna Saheb seat, remained indoors with his children and grandchildren. Yadav had won the seat, a Jana Sangh stronghold since 1967, with a 67,000-margin in 2010. But this time, with the consolidation of the RJD, JDU and Congress votes against him, he scraped through with 2,700 votes only.
Septuagenarian Chandra Mohan Rai, a former health minister, immediately after the defeat accused Sushil Modi, Nand Kishore Yadav, who was Leader of Opposition in the dissolved Assembly and Mangal Pandey, the state party president, of poor candidate selection, of mishandling of campaign and ignoring senior leaders.
Former Union Home Secretary and party MP from Ara, R.K. Singh, who did not join the campaign in protest against the nomination of a tainted candidate from the Tarari Assembly segment in his Lok Sabha constituency, too demanded action against the state leaders. Film star turned politician Shatrughan Sinha is also gunning for the three state leaders as they omitted him from the campaigners’ list.