Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will not campaign in the third and fourth phases of the Bihar assembly polls due to ill health. This has come as a big blow to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, which was hoping to take advantage of Vajpayee's image.
Sources in the BJP said Vajpayee will not campaign in third and fourth phase polls due to ill health and his scheduled election meeting on November 10 in flood-prone Darbhanga district was cancelled.
BJP leaders admit that Vajpayee's absence from campaigning will affect the NDA, as he still enjoys more popularity than any other BJP leader in Bihar.
According to BJP leaders, Vajpayee was to campaign in areas considered strongholds of Rashtriya Janata Dal- Congress.
Vajpayee, who did not campaign for the BJP-led NDA in the first phase also due to ill health, addressed a rally in Purnea on October 22, during the second phase of polls. Vajpayee presented a softer, more appealing face of the party than president L K Advani.
BJP leaders admit that making Vajpayee campaign was a calculated move to woo Muslims, who make a decisive electoral difference in Araria, Kishanganj, Katihar, Darbhanga and Siwan, which are going to polls in third phase on November 13 and fourth phase on November 19.
There are over a dozen Assembly constituencies in these districts where Muslim support influences the poll outcome, said a leader.
He added that BJP alliance partner Janata Dal (United), whose leader Nitish Kumar is being projected as NDA's chief ministerial candidate, also feels that Advani remains a hardliner and is no match for Vajpayee's liberal face.
In the February elections, Vajpayee's famous one-liner during a rally in Bhagalpur, "Kahan hain mera bhai Kislay ," helped the NDA turn the kidnapping of a schoolboy into a major poll plank.
However, though Vajpayee will be missed, nearly a dozen top BJP leaders including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan and Uma Bharti will be campaigning.