Reconquering governance in Bihar was a not a smooth sailing for National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Bihar delivered a complex judgement to rediscover sheen of Modi Magic due to watertight victory with the very thin margins amid allegations of electoral malpractices. At least 11 seats recorded victory with a margin of just less than one thousand votes and one seat by margin of just 12 votes. None other than its own partner showed its might that had become untouchable in the eyes of ruling chief minister due to ego clash with him. It actually blunted the sheen of victory for both Modi and Nitish Kumar as popular mandate is neither with bjp nor with nda. It is more look alike divine blessing favouring electoral arithmetic.
The Bihar elections assumed significance like a referendum on the programme and performance of the National Democratic Alliance in the state with the high political stakes because it was the first election after the pandemic after sufferings of hardships inflicted in terms of economic and human losses during the lockdown. So winning the elections was top priority for endorsing Modi’s policies because other states are also heading for assembly elections.
The leading Psephologists utterly failed to grasp public mood of political preferences mainly due to complex caste combinations. The Exit Poll surveys predicted unprecedented gains for Mahagathbandhan that changed the entire narrative and perception about Tejeshwi Yadav as apparent choice of the millions of youths who enthusiastically hit his public meetings.
Bihar politics re-scripts various facets of the contemporary Indian politics. If the Lalu regime had ended the utopia of the socialism once represented by Jayprakash Narayan, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and in its subtle and more progressive form during the Nehru era. The Congress had transformed the Indian National Congress into an ideological socialist goal from its existing plural character pro-capitalist character.
The turning point of this shift was an amendment in the Indian constitution during the emergency era of 1975-77 when country re-defined nature of its pro-poor polity as a socialist state. The ideological height lost its relevance due to policy shift and rise of capitalism. Similarly, the use of caste and the communal card, claiming the patron of being Muslim interests in the northern India’s cow-belt comprising the major states of UP and Bihar quietly ended the socialist outfits, which had reduced them into family affairs having the narrow caste or communal orientation.
Unfortunately, like the Communist Parties that have failed to condemn the violence of its extreme Marxist cadres, the Socialist ideologues too have failed to disown the aberration of the caste-based politics. The attempt to redefine it as a challenge to the much-condemned order of Brahmanism, but the social reality has already undergone changes.
Caste matters in Bihar, and the very caste-religious coalition that makes RJD such a powerful force signals the limits of its rise. Its own base of Muslims and Yadavs appears to have consolidated behind the party and RJD may have even weaned away sections of young citizens of other castes. But while this is enough to become a strong opposition, it is clearly not enough to win in a largely bipolar contest, where other castes consolidate behind the rival.
The three socially dominant caste comprising Brahmins, Kayastha and Kshtriyas have already lost much of their social significance. The exodus of these castes from Bihar during the Lalu era has enabled them to have their much larger presence at the national level and thus, they have much more influence in the state politics. One should recognize that it goes to the credit of the BJP strategists that it has much more deeper political sense than the combined opposition.
In a thanks-giving ceremony at BJP headquarters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated to continue Nitish Kumar as chief minister, popularly known as ‘Sushasan Babu’, look like a part of a wider strategy. Political observers watching the changing dynamics in Maharashtra polity with keen interest noticed it, where his party has taken a position to support TV anchor Arnab Goswami and putting the blame of his arrest on Congress culture denounced democratically during emergency period. Surprisingly it did not utter a single word against ruling Shiv Sena.
As a part of the new strategy, one may not be surprised, if Uddhav faces a revolt within Shiv Sena, and the rebels may again form a coalition with BJP. If Uddhav had allowed a number of sober leaders of his party, he might have been in a much better position. The present alliance with the Congress and NCP is just busy in writing an epitaph of the present Shiv Sena leadership.
Targeting Congress party Modi said, “It is unfortunate that web of family led parties from Kashmir to Kanyakumari has become threat to democracy and the youths of the country know it fully well.” Exhorting his cadre he appealed to make BJP an example of live vibrant party as a forum of equity of opportunity for its every worker and citizen.
Decoding “sabka sath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwas” (Everyone’s support, Everyone’s develop- ment and everyone’s confidence) as success “mantra” for his party, Modi complemented the people of Bihar, “You people proved why Bihar is called land of democracy. You once again proved to be conscious tester.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party just focused to its poll plank around its flagship schemes and attacking jangle raj of Lalu Yadav that perhaps still haunt the memories of the older generations. BJP-led National Democratic Alliance demolished such exit poll surveys and has won a majority of three seats, with a total of 125 of Bihar’s 243 assembly segments. BJP secured 74 seats whereas JD(U) just reduced to 43 seats from earlier 71 in the last elections. Two smaller NDA allies, the Vikassheel Insan Party and the Hindustan Awam Party (Secular) won in four seats each. Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party has just a single seat but spoiled fortunes of many candidates with securing around 6 percent votes in the elections paving his way to better future. The voter turnout this year was 57.05 per cent — marginally higher than the 56.66 per cent of the 2015 assembly elections.
The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan, (Grand Alliance) is not far behind, with 110 seats. The RJD, on the other hand, finished as the single-largest party with 75 seats, while the Congress won a mere 19. Of the 29 seats the Left parties had contested, they won in 16, with the CPI (ML-Liberation) winning at least 12 of them.
In the closely contested election the Tejashwi Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerged as single largest party winning 76 seats in the 243-member assembly. But its wider alliance, the Mahagatbandhan (MGB), failed to become the largest pre-poll formation, with the Congress winning only 19 of the 70 seats it contested, though the Left forces put up their best performance in the state in the last two-and-a-half decades, with 16 seats. In all, the alliance won 111 seats.
The Congress party once again gave miserable performance reducing its previous tally from 27 seats to just 19. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi failed to counter growing empire of Modi rule and his policies. The shrinking base of the congress require him to reinvent his strengths and weaknesses with regard to organisational structure including desertion of its workers fed-up with his successive debacles.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), which fielded 137 candidates in Bihar Assembly polls, managed to secure only one seat. LJP candidate from Matihani constituency, Raj Kumar Singh defeated Janata Dal-United’s Narendra Kumar Singh aka Bogo Singh by a slender margin of 333 votes. LJP candidate from Matihani got 61,364 votes whereas Bogo Singh received 61,031 votes. It was a high-voltage battle for the BJP-JDU combine as well as for Tejashwi Yadav’s Grand Alliance as he made a desperate attempt for the RJD’s return to power. Of 243 seats, the JDU contested 122 seats, while the BJP contested 121 seats. Targeted by opposition, he had overcome a major anti-incumbency wave.
Bihar has taught the world the first lesson of democracy. Today, Bihar has told the world again how democracy is strengthened. A record number of poor, deprived and women of Bihar voted and have also given their decisive verdict for development… Democracy has won again
NARENDRA MODI, Prime Minister
Every section of Bihar has once again upheld the development agenda of NDA by denying hollow politics, casteism and appeasement politics. This is the victory of the hopes and aspirations of every person in Bihar… it is the triumph of the double-engine development of PM Narendra Modi ji and Nitish Kumar ji
AMIT SHAH, Union minister and senior BJP leader
…In today’s results of Bihar and bypolls in various states, the public has proven that ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai’
YOGI ADITYANATH, Uttar Pradesh chief minister
Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and everyone’s faith is the pathon which the government, organisation and coalition are working together. The sense of service and welfare of the poor have increased the credibility of the BJP among the people
RAJNATH SINGH, Union minister and senior BJP leader
Our strike rate in Bihar is 80 per cent and if we had been given more seats, we would have contributed more to the gathbandhan tally
SITARAM YECHURY, CPI(M) leader
We (NCP) did not contest because we felt that young leadership in the form of Tejashwi Yadav should come forward… Tejashwi has put up a gritty fight
SHARAD PAWAR, NCP chief
Numbers are close and the margin is low… There are over dozens of seats where tampering has been done. They (NDA) are trying to change the people’s mandate
MANOJ JHA, RJD leader
How much more rigging will go on in Bihar elections?…Public opinion is being hijacked by killing democracy
RANDEEP SURJEWALA, Congress spokesperson,
It’s a great moment for us as people of Bihar have honoured us with so many votes. Our leaders and workers have put a lot of effort into strengthening our party in Bihar. We will try our best to fulfil the promises made by us
ASADUDDIN OWAISI, AIMIM chief
The people of Bihar have expressed faith in respected Narendra Modi ji… This is the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
CHIRAG PASWAN, LJP leader
I heard BJP leaders saying in unison (on TV) that only Nitish babu will be the CM. Nitish babu should thank Shiv Sena for that. Not keeping promises will not happen in Bihar because the Shiv Sena has shown in Maharashtra what can happen if word is not kept
SANJAY RAUT, Congress spokesperson,
PM NARENDRA MODI
Narendra Modi attained the status of India’s most popular politician. The politics of populism has helped Modi connect with voters in an unprecedented manner.
The Bihar elections was an herculean challenge for National Democratic Alliance in the state looking at migrant labour crisis during pandemic and apparent discontentment over its rough handling by its alliance partner Nitish Kumar. It was the first opportunity to test public trust in the pandemic times. The economic and human losses during lockdown were also contentious issues to handle. Modi once again emerged victorious due to his impressive communication skills displayed in his rallies in Bihar. The promise of double engine governance convinced them to another chance.
Modi had emerged even stronger politically after Bihar as he will have upper hand in state governance as JD(U) turned its smaller partner in terms of people support. The phenomenal rise of BJP under his leadership from just 53 seats to 74 seats represent his expanding vote base as he genuinely claims as an endorsement of his government’s policies of development. His master oratory proved ability to change people’s discourse and swing state elections. Now he has to face major challenge to boost Indian economy from emerging recession and job creation that had become major issue in this election.
Nadda as BJP president handled a tough challenge — he had to neutralize the anti-incumbency sentiment against Nitish Kumar, while ensuring that the BJP enlarges its support base in the state and overcome from negative sentiment against Kumar that could translate into votes against the party. It was like a bonhomie situation as J P Nadda grew up and entered politics in Bihar though he comes from Himachal Pradesh.
This was also the first election where Nadda’s predecessor, Amit Shah, apparently stayed away from the active campaigning.
Nadda was assisted by general secretary Bhupender Yadav, who has overseen several elections for the party in Bihar, The party was widely speculated to have either propped up — or not done enough to stop — the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) from contesting separately. This could be a dangerous strategy for taming Nitish Kumar but NDA just survived the loss of numbers. All is well that end well is golden saying as BJP emerged as bigger partner in the NDA and will be in power but with a downsized Nitish Kumar. It gave ground to Nadda to smile for his strategies.
With the mercy of Modi, Nitish Kumar is set to regain throne of Bihar’s CM fourth time despite being a junior partner alike in 2015 when Lalu Yadav sacrificed the chair for him. He will enjoy a rare political achievement that only a few politicians achieved.
Nitish Kumar faced deep anti-incumbency that brought down his tally from 71 to just 43 seats in state assembly. His skill to handle the alliance with the BJP is going to be his biggest political test. Most of the political observers feel that he may join centre very soon to help PM Modi in a bigger canvas.
Kumar may re-enter the office of Chief Minister again but the BJP will seek to exercise real power and will not settle for a junior role. Kumar will have to decide if he wishes to |serve his full term, or whether he would like an honourable exit upwards, and some form of political accommodation. During campaigning he declared that is his last election. Kumar will also have to worry about the future of his party, which has remained personality-centric, and has no second hierarchy of leaders ready to take over.
The son of two former chief ministers, Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi, was hoping to become the third from his family to take over the state’s secretariat. Tejashwi Yadav organised one of the most energetic campaigns in recent years in a state election, attempted to introduce a new jargon of politics by focusing on young people and jobs, and widen the social coalition of his party. All of this helped the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerge as the dominant player in the state along with the BJP.
The preconceived misgivings about his parents’ governance among masses failed him to turned the tables. He could not to win the trust of other communities besides the party’s core base and an alliance with the Congress applied brakes on his journey to power. He suffered major setback in Kosi-Seemanchal areas because of Assduddin Owaisi led AIMIM party that snatched five seats that halted his race abruptly.
Nobody can deny his powerful emergence on the political map of Bihar at such a young age of 31 with tremendous amount of energy that made him a potential force for the generation-next of the politicians. As a leader of opposition, he will have lot of opportunities to emerge as an acceptable leader of masses at state and national scenario.
The wild card in this election was Chirag Paswan, the young LJP leader who lost his father, the veteran Dalit leader and minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, just as the campaign was picking up.
Chirag Paswan gambled in this election, by staying away from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state, and challenging Nitish Kumar while remaining a part of NDA at the Centre and pledging loyalty to PM Modi. If his objective was only to damage the CM, Paswan succeeded — for LJP did hurt JD(U)’s prospects and contributed to the anti-incumbency sentiment.
But if his objective was to emerge as the swing force, he was unsuccessful, failing to win just one seat. But it would be wise not to dismiss Paswan entirely, for age is on his side and there remains a vacuum in Dalit politics in the state.