Nitish-Lalu’s Bihar Poll Results Could Change Course Of Indian Politics – OpEd


As expected, Nitish-Lalu swept the Bihar poll with their alliance partner Congress party gaining in strength. The Grand Alliance of JDU (U), RJD and Congress has won 178 seats in the 243 seated Bihar assembly, gaining a grand two-thirds majority in the House. The PM Modi’s BJP that hoped to wrestle power from CM Nitish Kumar, has been crushed by the Bihar voters, and is the new opposition party. The poll outcomes have become a soothing experience for the secular parties and sections of Indian society.

According to the Election Commission, the Grand Alliance led by Nitish-Lalu has won 178 seats and the BJP led NDA 58. The JD (U) has won 71 seats, the RJD 80, the Congress 27 and the BJP 53 of the 243 assembly seats.

In fact, Bihar has saved India by its decisive vote against divisive, anti-secular parties led by BJP. It’s a momentous day for all the Mahagathbandhan leaders — Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and Rahul Gandhi. It’s a landslide victory for the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance). The BJP, the largest single Indian party, is reduced to number three in Bihar. The results could be worse for the party in a high stakes election. The Bihar victory is so big, so unexpected in numbers by most Indian TV media.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had extended support to the Grand Alliance in the middle of the Bihar polls, was one of the first leaders to congratulate Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad on their victory. PM Modi, Sonia Gandhi, TN DMK leader Karunanidhi, CPM leaders former Kerala CM Achuthanandan are among those who congratulated Nitish and Lalu on their historic win.

Since the Mahagathbandhan has won Bihar battle, Nitish aura grows and he becomes a potential challenger to PM Narendra Modi at the national level. Though Nitish may keep himself to Bihar, given the experience of the futility of earlier experiments with national front of disparate forces, he becomes the rallying point for regional forces, even the Congress, and begins the long preparation for the 2019 general elections.
The bitterness the BJP tried to inject into Indian body politics has been defeated in Bihar and at national level – at least for the time being.

Consequences for BJP’s future

The massive Bihar defeat for BJP could prove a fatal blow to the BJP’s campaign for the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections. The party’s popularity was already showing a slide since the high of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the loss in the neighbouring state may seal its fate here.

BJP’s defeat in the Bihar Assembly polls has brought into focus its tactics in Tamil Nadu to acquire greater political significance in the state. The party’s game plan for next year’s Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, which was launched by BJP chief Amit Shah in August 2015, has similarities with his Bihar experiments in attempts to consolidate fringe caste groups, and even in cajoling their local leaders by bringing them to Delhi for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With Bihar elections over, the focus will soon shift to Assam — one of the four states heading for Assembly elections in April 2016. The state is particularly important for both the Congress and the BJP because besides being the only Congress-ruled state among the four, it is also the one in which the BJP thinks it can capture power.

The Grand Alliance secured an emphatic, landslide victory to give Nitish Kumar a third term in power after decimating the BJP-led alliance in the high-stakes Assembly elections in Bihar. As the Grand Alliance surged ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had put up an aggressive campaign, addressing over 30 rallies, called up Mr. Kumar to congratulate him on the poll victory.

Possible causes

Increasing intolerance, raising issues like reservation, pushing through the ultra Hindutva agenda of Ghar vapasi, beef politics, etc harmed BJP because these issue disconnected the party from voters.

The Bihar people have no faith in BJP or PM Modi.

After the humiliating defeat in the Delhi assembly election, Modi had led the NDA charge by holding over 30 rallies while his Man and BJP chief Amit Shah held 85-odd public meetings, asserting confidence that the BJP-led NDA would come to power and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would give in his resignation on November 8. However, the rising intolerance row, the silence over core issues and diminishing faith in the Modi government has once again stopped BJP from gaining a foothold in one of the most prominent states of the country.

People of Bihar have trust in Nitish, rather than PM Modi and his non-serious promises. Though a month before the Election Commission declared the poll dates, Modi announced the whopping package of Rs 1 lakh 65 thousand crore, he spoke about development promising “bijli-paani-sadak” (electricity, road and water) and “kamai-padhai-dawai” (earning, education and medicines) only after the second phase. Modi tried to pitch development through a six-point agenda, but the issues raised by the prime minister were nothing but what Nitish Kumar had already announced in his August 2014 development plan known as the ‘vision document’.

Prime Minister Modi had nothing new to offer to the citizens of Bihar apart from ‘tall promises’. Over the last few months, the intolerance row has rocked the country. Not just opposition parties, but people from all walks of life have come forward to raise their voice over rising intolerance. Eminent business personalities, writers, actors have joined the debate citing the Dadri lynching, murders of rationalist author MM Kalburgi and activist Govind Pansare. Business leaders like Infosys founder Narayana Murthy, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and economist Lord Meghnad Desai have spoken about intolerance. Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan too joined the debate, while several historians, actors returned their national and state awards.

This actually meant many fence sitters among voters who would have earlier voted for the saffron brigade based on their developmental claims this time around decided to switch loyalties.

Whether it was America’s Madison square or Canada’s Ricoh Coliseum – Modi may have been successful in pleasing the international community and the Indian Diaspora across the world. But at home, he failed to satisfy the expectations of the people. PM Modi has persistently remained silent on the core issues while addressing rallies or through his radio address. Unfortunately, he even failed to address issues through Twitter, where he usually expresses his ‘Maan Ki Baat’ in 140 characters. Whether it is the FTII row, Dadri lynching, Kalburgi’s death or ceasefire violations, Modi has preferred to remain quiet, letting the mischief on. The only time he spoke out was when his home state of Gujarat was under duress which means Modi still the CM of Gujarat and not grown into Indian PM.

PM Modi let all anti-secular actions of BJP-RSS to on in the country uninterrupted by him orhis government. He, like his predecessor Manmohan, refused to be sensitive. BJP didn’t have any strong face to counter the charisma and good faith enjoyed by Nitish Kumar. It wanted to win the elections based merely on the Modi magic but, like Delhi, the plan failed in the presence of a powerful regional satrap.

On the day of the final phase of the voting, adding fuel to the fire, Yogi Adityanath compared Shah Rukh Khan with the 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed. Union Minister Mahesh Sharma termed the Dadri lynching incident as an “accident” while Haryana CM Khattar had said that Muslims can live in India only if they give up eating beef. The controversial comments by many such leaders have surely not gone down well with the voters affecting the NDA’s agenda. Amid the continuing Patel quota stir in Gujarat, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it has been used for political ends and that aspirations of one section should not be met at the cost of others. Veteran actor and party leader Shatrughan Sinha too backed Bhagwat’s call, stating he should be taken seriously.
Many of these factors are not only Bihar-specific and the BJP is likely to fare poorly in the future too, especially if it continues with fanatic agenda.

In recent memory in no other election pollsters have come out with such conflicting predictions. Most channels put the BJP on top. The mean or poll of polls of six channel suggested 119 for the Mahagthbandhan and 117 for the NDA. Any election certainly qualifies as an interesting one if it leaves pollsters and researchers sharply divided, if not confused. Aaj Tak-Cicero predicted a very tight contest with a thin majority to the BJP-led NDA with 127 seats (upper limit). It gave Mahagathbandhan 123. Times Now and India TV, both relying on C-Voter, gave a thin edge to the Nitish-led coalition — 122 to 111 of the NDA. The BJP’s media control politics could not win the elections in Bihar.

Clearly, the minorities and poor have voted against BJP.

Bihar politics: Learning from defeat and victory

Bihar is a state which, like many other states in India, unfortunately still votes heavily based on caste considerations. The opposition, especially Lalu, latched on to Bhagwat’s comments and hammered home the message that the BJP wanted to deprive the backward castes of reservations. Nitish Kumar rightly said that the BJP will change the Constitution once they get numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

Narendra Modi versus the rest – that in essence is the story of Bihar Assembly polls 2015. Modi wanted to show that he is BJP and new India. It’s ironic that a person whose presence in the state was not acceptable to some not long ago would have an overwhelming presence in the polls and threaten to upset all old political equations. The extent of his appeal among the masses would define the political course the state takes after the elections. As the mascot of the NDA alliance, he has left nothing to chance.

BJP’s defeat in the state, however, will reinvigorate the opposition ranks. It will also help Nitish Kumar acquire a key role in national politics once again.

Accepting defeat in Bihar, BJP’s Bihar state unit said that the ‘grand alliance’ emerged as a “strong social combination” and that the party would analyze its results and poll strategy by visiting every constituency in the coming days. Expressing satisfaction with a clear mandate, senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said We respect the mandate of the people and bow before it and BJP would play the role of a constructive opposition and would cooperate with the new government in Bihar. “People have given a clear mandate to the grand alliance. It is good that there is no fractured mandate. It is important for Bihar as it has put to end an atmosphere of political uncertainty.” He described RJD leader Lalu Prasad as a ‘king maker’ and ‘Big Boss’ who, he said, would have a major influence on the new government Nitish governance On the reasons for the NDA’s defeat, he said, “I think they were successful in putting together a strong alliance. One of the reasons why they were successful is that their alliance was a strong ‘social combination’.”

The RJD chief Lalu Prasad said that the verdict has sent out a strong message for unity of opposition at the national level against the Narendra Modi government. CM Nitish Kumar remains the Chanakya of Bihar’s politics, as he is often called, Nitish Kumar may be fighting the toughest battle of his four-decade long political career. He went into the election with several pluses, the biggest being there was no anti-incumbency build-up against him. People made no secret of their admiration for him as a capable administrator with innovative ideas. He also carries no corruption taint.

The RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav is sharp, he is politically astute and he manages 20 percent of the vote share with some consistency, but for some reason he remains a highly underrated politician. The media love to write him off and tend to treat him with some disdain, but his political opponents know he is much more than the silly sound bytes he comes up with. In Bihar, he will still remain a force to reckon with. He gets the controlling stake in the government even though Nitish Kumar stays at the helm. He is expected to remote control the government. His family members get rehabilitated in the government and may emerge as a rival power centre to Nitish. Nitish-Lalu duo is certain now to make another bid for a coalition of regional forces to take on the BJP led by Narendra Modi.

Since the Mahagathbadhan has won, life becomes difficult for PM Modi at the centre with a re-alignment of political parties taking place. His policies become open to questions even within the party as the LK Advani led rebels would make stronger pitch for replacement of PM Modi and his silence on the fringe groups come into question too. With a rejuvenated opposition around, it becomes difficult for him to clear important pending bills. The consequence may be felt on the economy.

Castes and close relatives play key role in Bihar poll. The results of the Bihar elections brought cheer to the family of RJD chief Lalu Prasad whose both sons made a victorious debut, but voters were not as generous towards other prominent political clans, especially those from the NDA. Lalu’s sons Tejaswi Prasad Yadav and Tej Pratap secured big wins in Raghopur and Mahua constituencies. Tejaswi defeated BJP’s Satish Kumar by 22,733 votes in Raghopur, a seat won by both Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi in the past, while Tej Pratap trounced HAM (Secular)’s Ravindra Ray by 28,155 votes in Mahua.

Congress improved its tally from a mere 04 seats last time. It was indeed a timely decision for the party to join the Nitish-Lalu alliance, otherwise, Congress would have ended zero as it happened in Delhi assembly where from a powerful ruling party it turned out to be a party of zero some. Had the left parties also joined the Grand alliance they would won several seats, thereby reducing the BJP tally. The Hyderabad based AIMIM which had earlier won seats in Maharashtra assembly by fielding candidates Muslim dominated zones, has, however, failed to win a seat but could make its presence felt in Bihar. AIMIM said it would work more for the party’s future in the state.

After the Grand Alliance’s landslide victory in Bihar, the Samajwadi Party — which had pulled out of the JD(U)-led alliance just a few days after poll dates were announced in September — said it was “revising its strategy” vis-a-vis working with the alliance. “The Grand Alliance’s victory matters. Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) will decide the future strategy afresh soon, just wait,” UP minister and Mulayam’s brother Shivpal Yadav said. CPM supremo Sitaram Yechuri, my old friend at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, has applauded the Bihar judgment.

Some lessons

It is very clear now that BJP and Narendra Modi came to power in India last year by default. First Delhi, then Kerala and now Bihar, People are clearly making their own Achhe Din (good days) by defeating the essentially anti-secular and anti-democratic political outfits.
BJP’s debacle in the Bihar Assembly elections has come when the party, buoyed by its show in the Kerala civic polls , was planning to expand its base in the state. For BJP in Kerala, the next test is the Assembly election slated for April next year. The party now expects that electoral issues would be different at the time of assembly polls.

The results of the high-stakes Bihar poll battle will make or mar political careers. Forces and personalities who have dominated the political scene in the state over decades may walk into the sunset or they may find a source of political rejuvenation. The national politics may also witness a realignment of political forces against the current dispensation. Here’s what could be in store for all the major characters in the Bihar drama.

Bihar judgment reveals the hard truth that BJP had won the 2014 parliamentary poll not because of Modi aura as it wanted the world to believe but thanks to the anti-corruption movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal against the Congress misrule.

The best advice to BJP-RSS as well as Modi-Amit Shah duo came from their ally Siva Sena: “People cannot be fooled all the time!” Indians get this message from Bihar.

BJP high command is to meet today to perform postmortem of the shocking poll outcomes. PM Modi is keen to know why his strategy to capture failed and how Nitish is bigger than himself. BJP MP and critic of BJP said the :outsiders” (Modi-Amit) have failed in Bihar while Insiders have won. .

BJP says Bihar poll outcomes are not a referendum on PM Modi and there is no immediate threat to his position.

Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dr. Abdul Ruff is a columnist contributing articles to many newspapers and journals on world politics. He is an expert on Mideast affairs, as well as a chronicler of foreign occupations and freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). Dr. Ruff is a specialist on state terrorism, the Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA), commentator on world affairs and sport fixings, and a former university teacher. He is the author of various eBooks/books and editor for INTERNATIONAL OPINION and editor for FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES; Palestine Times.

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