Leading members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are scheduled to visit Bihar in September. The state saw the party lose power there in August after Nitish Kumar, the state’s chief minister, broke off his alliance. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, and the Left parties joined together to form the state’s administration.
Prior to the 2024 presidential elections, Bihar was still the BJP’s top priority, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The only state in the Hindi Belt where the BJP has been unable to create a government on its own or grow the organisation is Bihar, which sends 40 members to Parliament.
On September 23, Bihar will be visited by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. On September 18, his cabinet colleague Smriti Irani is scheduled to attend a book launch there to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Irani’s visit is a separate one. Shah’s visit is part of the BJP’s regular outreach. Programmes in Seemanchal were planned long ago…programmes after that are also planned. Our activities never stop,” said Bihar BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal.
He denied any connection between Shah’s visit to the predominantly Muslim state of Seemanchal and the BJP’s reported efforts to divide the region along religious lines.
The BJP, according to Jaiswal, will host a fortnight-long outreach programme commencing on September 17, the day after Prime Minister Modi’s birthday, to engage the public. A special COVID vaccination push to distribute three million doses in honour of Prime Minister Modi’s birthday was announced by the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, last year.
Shah will make his first trip to Seemanchal since Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), or JD (U), severed ties with the BJP. He will speak at two rallies in Purnea and Kishanganj, in addition to attending a meeting of the BJP’s core committee.
In Bihar, the BJP aims to get 35 seats in the national elections in 2024. In an alliance with the JD (U) and other parties, the BJP won 39 of the 40 seats in 2019.
Analyst DM Diwakar said Shah’s visit shows the BJP is working on a plan and may like to polarise votes. “…Seemanchal has constituencies with significant Muslim population and where a party like the AIMIM [All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen] managed to win seats in 2015 [assembly polls].”
In order to energise the party before Shah’s visit, Union Minister Nityanand Rai, Jaiswal, and former Deputy Chief Minister Tarkeshwar Prasad travelled to Seemanchal and held talks.
“Nitish Kumar has lost credibility. No matter where he goes, he has to follow the template of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. He is no longer a factor for us. We are a worker-based party and we will keep working for Bihar’s progress, not to suit the interests of individuals. We have the utmost regard for Kumar despite his constantly falling graph, but, perhaps, he did not deserve it,” said Rai.