New Delhi, June 17: Nitish Kumar's decision to end his 17-year-old alliance with the BJP may look an audacious political gamble. JD(U)'s margin of defeat, 1.37 lakh votes, appeared to have stunned the masses.
Yet, it is an important detail about the by-election which seems to have encouraged the Bihar chief minister to call off the alliance with BJP.
According to JD(U) strategists, a booth-wise analysis of the votes cast in Maharajganj turned up the pleasant fact that Kumar's candidate, though hardly a vote puller, had on average got 40% of the total votes in 60 villages in the constituency which are dominated by Muslims.
It's a comforting fact for someone who has been in alliance with the BJP for 17 years, and considering that Lalu has formidable secular credentials as the man who arrested L K Advani while he was on his Rath Yatra for mobilizing support for the Ram temple campaign, reported TOI.
Muslims make up 16% of the state's population, and have exercised disproportionate clout because of the stubbornly notorious caste divides in the state. They were one of the main factors behind Congress's domination and contributed to the grand old party's decline by switching their affection to Lalu.
JD(U) strategists hope that the support of Muslims will more than compensate the loss of BJP's support and the sullenness of upper castes, significant sections of which are perceived to be sympathetic towards Narendra Modi's prime ministerial ambition, reports media .
"Muslims don't forget those who make sacrifices and take risks for their sake. They will vote for those who can prevent Narendra Modi from being PM and it is Nitish who fits the bill," said a JD(U) leader.
The initiative appears to have been a success of sorts but BJP thinks it can blunt it by building upon its appeal among other communities.
However, Kumar may have to reckon with competition from the BJP with Sushil Modi on Sunday showcasing the Gujarat chief minister's credentials as the first OBC leader who has emerged as a strong contender for the country's top political job. BJP already has a following among MBCs.