The BJP is clearly desperate in Bihar. And the desperation is showing. The party's star campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his last-ditch attempt to turn the tide in his party's favour, has taken refuge in what his party is best known for - Communalism.
Addressing rallies in Buxar and Siwan on Monday, the last day of campaigning for the third phase of polling in the state, Mr Modi alleged that Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi along with a few other political parties were hatching a conspiracy to give away 5% of the reservation meant for Dalits, Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) to a particular community. The reference to "a particular community" is not lost on anyone.
"But I reassure you that I will put my life at stake if there is a bid to curtail the quota to benefit a particular community for the sake of vote bank politics," he said thumping his 56-inch chest.
Mr Modi obviously sets the tune for others in his party. Taking cue from the PM, BJP president Amit Shah shot off a set of tweets echoing the PM on Tuesday on the eve of polling for the third phase.
The BJP president asked Lalu and Nitish to clarify if they support Congress' promise that party made during the UP Assembly election in 2012, of giving 9% reservation to Muslims. He also wanted to know whether this "promised" 9% Muslim quota will be carved out of the existing quotas for Dalits and Backwards.
But why did the Prime Minister suddenly bring up the question or rather the spectre of Muslim reservation in his speeches? Did Nitish or Lalu or Congress leaders make any such promise in this election campaign?
The PM and Amit Shah are raking up a poll promise made by the Congress, which is only a marginal player in the Bihar polls, in the 2012 election campaign in Uttar Pradesh. It can't get pettier than this. And for the Prime Minister to lower the discourse to this level of political thuggery for some narrow gains is unfortunate.
The PM just few days ago talked of Hindu-Muslim unity and how he wanted Hindus and Muslims to jointly fight poverty and not each other. He also talked of social and communal harmony in his recent Mann Ki Baat. Why would then the same PM try to carve out a communal wedge in Bihar polls where none existed?
The reason is the BJP's paranoia and frustration over the damage caused by the quota remarks of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. The BJP has been at pains to explain to voters that it stands firmly for the reservations as they exist today, but the JDU-RJD alliance has gone to town with Mr Bhagwat's words, painting the BJP as against reservation for backward castes. Nitish and Lalu have managed to push BJP into a corner by repeatedly asking it to publicly and clearly disown its ideological fountainhead, the RSS, on the issue of quotas. Obviously the BJP can't do that.
It is this failure to climb out of the quota cauldron after Mr Bhagwat's comments that is making the BJP seek an escape route in stirring a communal cauldron.
Union Minister VK Singh's "dog analogy" while speaking about the barbaric killing of two little Dalit kids in Haryana only made matters worse for his party in Bihar with its large Dalit population. Even allies Ram Vilas Paswan and Jiten Ram Manjhi slammed the Haryana government for the incident and Mr Singh for his insensitive comment. This meant double trouble for the BJP in Bihar.
The real Mr Modi stands exposed in this entire episode. It shows that he can conveniently throw his own nice words on communal harmony out of the window in the face of a narrow political urgency, as we see in Bihar. He and his party earlier tried hard to make beef a poll issue in the wake of the Dadri lynching, but could not succeed,
Mr Modi tried to bundle all the castes in Bihar into one "Hindu" camp to be pitched against Muslims, who were to benefit from the Grand Alliance's "sinful conspiracy". To dissolve the backward quota question into one single religious identity that can be pitched against the other religious block.
When it comes to political benefits, the Modi mantra is simple: If you can't convince them, communalise them.
(Mohd Asim is Senior News Editor, NDTV 24x7)
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