NEW DELHI: Ahead of third phase of polling in Bihar, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the outcome of the state election will not be a referendum on Centre but expressed confidence that BJP will sweep the next two phases.
Jaitley said the first two phases, where 81 out of the 243 assembly seats went to polls, were historically never BJP's stronghold but the party "will be ahead of its rivals". "The (seats which went to polls in) first two phases were historically never a stronghold of BJP. Out of 81 seats, we had 21 seats. We will be ahead of our rivals in these phases... we will make significant gains," he said.
For the next two phases, he said, "We will sweep in third and fourth phase polling in north Bihar." The third phase of polling for 50 assembly seats will happen on October 28, followed by 55 seats going to polls on November 1. He, however, did not hazard a guess on the fifth and final phase saying the equation of the 57 seats going to the polls on November 7 is different from the first four phases.
Asked if the high-voltage Bihar assembly elections are any kind of referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government at the Centre, he replied in negative. "State ka election centre pe janadesh nahi hota hai (state elections are not a referendum on Centre)," he said. However, if the BJP-led alliance wins, it will strengthen the Centre and raise its capability to help Bihar, he said. He said the BJP will form a government in the state along with its allies even if it were to get a clear majority.
"We got a clear majority in Lok Sabha elections but we choose to take our allies along in government formation. The same will be repeated in Bihar," he said. Attacking Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, he said the JD-U leader had a "change of heart" after coming to power with BJP support in the previous assembly elections.
"His ambition was to send Lalu Prasad (of RJD) to jail and capture major chunk of his vote bank to form a JD-U government. Opposition to Modi was only an excuse. When the entire country had accepted him than how could JD-U have kept opposing him. "But the strategy failed in Lok Sabha polls last year and was forced to join hands with Lalu Prasad as well as unimaginable thing of a Lohia movement leader sitting in lap of Rahul Gandhi," he alleged.
"When he was with us, they (JD-U) fought election on 145 seats. Today with RJD and Congress, it is fighting on 100," Jaitley said.