Bihar elections results are finally out and what could have been being anybody’s guess now. 2015 Bihar Legislative Assembly Elections .
The Mahagathbandhan, owing to its sheer size, and much to the mistakes of the NDA and its statements has zoomed past 2/3rd majority.
Post this loss, everyone will have their own version. Based on their understanding and of course education, of how and why the NDA lost in Bihar elections 2015. Has the Modi wave really wanted? Is the BJP finally finding itself stranded on the leeward side of the Monsoon-Esque ‘winds of change?
Are the acche din over already?
You will notice numerous such questions debated in the next five days on the prime time debates, dining tables, and newspaper columns across the country. However, let me try and do a quick analysis of these poll results. And what exactly went right and wrong for the Mahagathbandhan and NDA respectively.
Start and During the Campaigning
Nitish Kumar is no pushover, and he made it clear from the very beginning itself in the Bihar election campaigns. Swallowing the bitter pill of having to shake hands with this one-time political foe, Lalu Prasad Yadav and roped in Congress as well to jump on the bandwagon.
Add to that, he made sure that his soft-spoken image got him the unanimous leader’s position in the Grand Alliance (GA).
With this masterstroke, he mobilized the resources of three of India’s biggest parties and the support of their candidates.
Many in the opposition, as well as his own side (Jitan Ram Manjhi et al), called it his biggest mistake. Which would eventually lead to his downfall. Nitish, however, had different plans this time. And look at how he made sure the decision reflected in the final results.
All the leaders of the GA stuck to the rote path of development and caste. The agenda of which caste should vote for who was carefully wrapped under the pretext of development and young leaders. That paid off really well. There were no communally sensitive comments about what religion does or who should do eat what.
There were barbs that hit Muslims where it hurts them the most (Read, go to Pakistan comments) and later helped in polarizing them. Many would argue that they still chose to use caste, in an election in 2015.
Well, being a Bihari I know that the caste system plagues our society. It is ingrained in our systems and will take some time to finally subside. That the GA used it should hardly come as a surprise to anyone in Bihar elections.
What Went Wrong for NDA in Bihar Elections
NDA, on the other hand, did the exact opposite. The saffron internet will furiously argue that none of the leaders in Bihar made any communally sensitive statements. Agreed. Absolutely none did in Bihar, but almost everyone did in all states but Bihar.
From beef to buff and Pakistan to Shah rukh Khan, there were comments and jibes so pungent, arid. And insipid that made even the liberal BJP supporters at some point questioned their own allegiance to the party.
To tackle the challenges of caste’ undercurrents, they tied up with small leaders like Jitan Ram Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha. But the NDA could never capitalize on it during the Bihar election campaigns.
It became the usual bulky Elephant in the packed room scenario, which left no space for the mice to play. Both were bound to take the first exit sign they saw.
The NDA leaders, while campaigning in the Bihar election made another crucial mistake. They got entangled in caste and reservation politics without understanding the finer nuances of it.
While the GA leaders shied away from commenting anything on it. The NDA dug up graves and pulled out the dead bodies (Muslim quota, SC/ST quota etc).
Add to that, thanks to the brilliant Bihar election campaign strategy of Prashant Kishor (just Google him if you do not know about him already). Nitish Kumar held a conference after every rally of any and every big leader of NDA and refuted all their claims, point by point.
This ensured that the jibes made and charges leveled by those senior NDA leaders never really settled in the voter’s minds. It also affirmed that the last voice to be heard was always Nitish Kumar’s.
One of the earliest nails in the coffin of NDA, which also proved to be the decider, was the lack of known popular faces in Bihar. During its alliance with the JD(U) from 2005-2014, NDA took the easy back seat and relaxed while Nitish Kumar became the face of governance in Bihar.
The pro-central leadership people and netas will argue that this was to provide the much necessitated ‘freedom’ to the government to function without any hindrances.
Instead what it ended up doing is, eclipsing many or any leader (Sushil Kumar Modi, Chirag Paswan, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and others) who could have been useful in the event of a breakup, as happened.
The campaigning was done mostly by the central leaders, without any show of face of any popular local leaders. It was like an army of anonymous bots led by the highly popular but outer planet protagonists.
What Now? Where To From Here?
The leaders of the GA will argue that it is it’s a victory for development. It is anything but that. It is a victory of the numbers, the subtle path that they chose to ride instead of the rather aggressive but wayward one chosen by BJP president.
Nitish Kumar did bring the proverbial ‘Bijli, Paani, Sadak’ (Electricity, Water and Roads) to the residents of Bihar. But that was when he was not under any pressure to follow the coalition dharma.
As per the results of Bihar elections RJD comes out as the single largest party (80 seats) in these elections. The Congress has made some serious inroads (27 seats, a gain of 23 seats from 2010), the going will be tough for Nitish Kumar. Only time will tell how he handles it.
There can be two scenarios. One is where Lalu Prasad can leave Nitish Kumar alone and let him run the government as he wishes to. He will, of course, ask for good portfolios for his two sons, Tej, and Tejaswi as well as daughter Misa Bharti.
But under the tutelage of Nitish, the three novices of politics will learn more than anyone else. There is, of course, Lalu at home for all the guidance they need. But the outsider tactician will be fair and unbiased to them.
The other scenario could be the uglier one, where there are constantly bickering and commentary on the functioning style of each other. That will then be on the lines of Maharashtra and Delhi.
And it will certainly not be a pleasant one. The government will drag on like a wounded animal before one of the two allies pulls out a gun and shoots themselves or the partner. That will spell doom for Bihar.
Is it A Referendum on NAMO’s Government?
Certainly NOT. And most likely YES.
It is needless to argue as to how Bihar elections, though a massive setback, is not any sort of referendum on the central government. The equations at the center are quite different, where the BJP has a clear and decisive mandate. Nothing can disturb the reality there.
It is not the loss of the PM, or for that matter his governance. It is poor planning and ineffective campaigning that led to this setback for NDA. You could of course always blame the BJP president. But that will not lead to much either.
Having said that, these results are a warning, a second Yellow card of sorts for the center to correct its approach to handling society and its own leaders at large. Time and again, there have been distasteful comments from the far right-wing leaders (Sadhvi Prachi and others).
Which though not associated with the government, have been seen as the pilot fishes that swim along with the whale, well protected under its belly. That needs to be put to rest immediately.
While the government is at it, it must also issue strict instructions to its own members of the cabinet. To exercise caution while speaking anything that can be construed as a communal statement.
They can shout all ‘My comment was twisted out of context’ that they want to but what comes out once is there to stay in the world. And thanks to the prowess of social media, it is never forgotten either.
The government must also listen to all concerned parties with a much more cooler and sophisticated hand. Rather than the ironsmith approach, it has tried on until now. Be it FTII, of UGC, award returnees or any other matter, the government should send representation and engage in talks.
Thanks to the alleged chequered past of the PM, the opposition will never let go of any chance to attack him. And nor should they.
But if the ruling party wishes to make amends to the situation and bury the past as down as far as possible. The only feasible route is opening up more debates and talking to all and sundry. That is the politics part of the game.
The second and the most important part is pushing for reforms, making sure that the promises and changes start showing some real ground movements. There has been more than enough noise on all the heavily laden and aptly named schemes and their propagation.
The vehicle must chug now, slowly but steadily. Or else, there will be many more such referendums on the PM’s governance and there will be daily demands for Rs 15 lakh share of black money, promised pre Lok Sabha polls in 2014.
In the end, it is but needless to say, that the Top NDA leaders need to shed some extra weight that they are carrying around. Figuratively, not literally.
An Opinionated Bihari!!!