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Prajwal Episode Likely Reason for JDS's Absence at Modi's NDA Show in Varanasi, Nitish Skips Too

The overwhelming presence of the leaders of the small parties in a Modi show, after scant attention he has paid to the coalition in 10 years, indicates that the '400 paar' slogan is now just that.
Top BJP and NDA leaders were in Varanasi on May 14, 2024 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi filed his nomination in Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. Photo: X (Twitter)/@narendramodi.

New Delhi: Was it the effect of the Prajwal Revanna sexual abuse case that in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mega event of filing nomination papers at Varanasi on May 14, an important ally, the Janata Dal (Secular) was missing? Deve Gowda’s party was not the only party missing. There was no Nitish Kumar either.

With big regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and All India Anna DMK (AIADMK), no longer a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the Shiv Sena split into two, entities like the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Janata Dal (Secular) and Janata Dal (United) have remained the next big parties to stand with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as part of the non-Congress bandwagon.

While Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP was among the crowd of NDA politicians to have accompanied Modi to file his nomination for the third time from Varanasi on May 14, neither Deve Gowda nor his son and former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy – the two top names of JD (S) – were seen in the BJP’s show of NDA strength. This absence of the JD (S) leaders rankled more, particularly after Modi had flown all the way to Hassan in the southern state to hold hands and campaign for Gowda’s grandson Prajwal Revanna. BJP’s discomfort with the JD(S)’s first family in this bitterly-fought general elections after the Revanna sexual abuse controversy was there for all to see.

Prajwal Revanna, the prime accused in the sensational case where he is purportedly seen sexually abusing at least 70 women in over 2,000 video clips, including women members of the JD (S), is yet to return to the country. After the videos began to circulate on social media, he reportedly fled to Germany on a diplomatic passport. The Congress government in Karnataka government soon asked the central government to revoke his passport.

Prajwal’s father and JD (S) MLA H D Revanna, son of the former prime minister and party’s patriarch Deve Gowda, was also purportedly seen in those explicit video clips. Though he was arrested by Karnataka Police on May 4, a local court released him on bail.

The BJP is under fire for not cancelling his diplomatic passport.

Missing Nitish

Another significant absence at that demonstration of strength and unity of the NDA members was Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United), chief minister of Bihar. This, in spite of Kumar’s party contesting the general elections in Bihar jointly with the BJP and being vital to the BJP’s northern calculations. As per news reports, Kumar skipped Varanasi citing “sickness.”

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and former ally of Kumar, Tejaswi Yadav, taking part in a poll rally in Bihar’s Madhubani on May 14, took a swipe at the chief minister’s absence on a significant day for Modi, saying, “Chacha (uncle, referring to Nitish Kumar) fell sick on the day of Prime Minister Modi filing nominations from the Varanasi seat for the Lok Sabha Elections…I have nothing to say against Chacha Ji as he has been hijacked by the BJP”.

The opposition INDIA bloc leader said he has been following the “tips” once given to him by Nitish Kumar to oust the BJP from power in 2024.

While the conspicuous absences were noted, there were also some conspicuous by their presence amongst the 24 NDA leaders who attended the Varanasi event. This includes the Meghalaya chief minister and Nationalist People’s Party (NPP) leader Conrad Sangma,

Assam’s UPPL (liberal) party leader Pramod Boro, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Atul Bora, Sikkim chief minister and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) leader Prem Singh Tamang, Tripura chief minister and BJP leader Manik Saha, Apna Dal leader Kanupriya Patel, Republican Party of India (A) leader Ramdas Athawale, Rashtriya Lok Jansakti Party leader Pashupati Kumar Paras, Hindustani Swayam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Majhi, Rashtriya Lok Morcha leader Upendra Kushwaha, Jana Sena Party leader Pawan Kalyan among some other small regional players.

That these parties can, at the most, may win one or two Lok Sabha seats individually in these elections is a certainty. Therefore, ensuring even their presence in Modi’s show of strength event indicates that the BJP is banking on them like never before, just in case, not BJP alone but it needs to put together an NDA government post June 4.

The overwhelming presence of the leaders of the small parties indicates that the BJP’s ‘400 paar’ (Winning 400 LS seats) slogan in the run-up to these elections is now just that.

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