India’s Ruling Party (BJP) Loses Key Elections In Bihar – OpEd


The 2015 Bihar assembly elections were seen differently both by masses and the psephologists. To a majority of Indians it was not less than a national election and BJP and its allies were reduced to just 58 assembly seats out of the total 243 despite a massive and powerful campaign.

Why everyone was so eager about the results this time is not a mystery, there are certain important sections of Indian society today who have a trust deficit against the BJP. Analysts attribute BJP’s defeat to cow and beef politics, Dadri lynching incident, Amit Shah’s Pakistan statement, RSS’s reservation comment, V.K Singh’s dog remark, Dalit children burning incident, comment against Bihar’s DNA, etc,. The post poll analysis also reflects polarizing statements and series of misfires by BJP leaders that caste a negative impact and backfired at the NDA resulting in such a poor performance as compared to the 2010 elections when it scored 91 assembly seat.

In addition, the dismal performance of the BJP’s allies also reflects their lack of basic footing on the ground, which perhaps BJP was not aware of and proved detrimental for the party. However, most importantly the image of hattrick scoring Nitish Kumar as Vikas Purush (Development Man) and no anti-incumbency against him — despite running for the consecutive third term along with Lalu Yadav’s mega comeback out of his party’s deep grounding, political maturity and improving performance of the Congress — ultimately led to Mahagatbandhan’s (Grand Alliance’s) huge victory which won 178 seats. People say BJP’s growing arrogance and the culture of intolerance also played a role. To see if the NDA will be held accountable and will this defeat affect the stature of the President’s party and alter some party posts and the future campaigning strategy, we will have to wait and watch.

The setback to BJP in Bihar has definitely left a serious message for the party ruling at the Centre and in a sense warned it against playing the Bihar type divisive politics in future. Will they apply the same techniques in the forthcoming elections in Assam or Kerala or Bengal or U.P and change their methodology to improve results, remains to be seen? Will they still rely on the fading Modi wave or work for actual landslide victories with a pure development agenda and without any beef, cow or other religion related issues? Will they actually reach the grass roots or continue to sail on the Modi wave, also remains a curiosity?

I was wondering why the people were so excited about and eager to see the NDA’s defeat and even celebrating in Delhi or keenly watching results in Kashmir or Gujarat or Maharashtra, etc, despite having no personal connection with Bihar per se? Are people really so hurt with the NDA or more specifically with the BJP and its governing ideology today which BJP denies to realize? Why is it as if the BJP is versus everyone today, be it political parties or when it comes to people in general who many a times may not love the person whom they voted to power but would definitely vote against someone to keep him away from the power? Has BJP really lost despite highest vote share as an individual party or is it the unity of Lalu and Nitish that changed the arithmetic? Does NDA really talk development despite having the development manifesto or forgets while delivering speeches of hate and anger? Is the nation fed up with the cow, beef and polarization politics and therefore rejected NDA in a significant state like Bihar? Has the culture of intolerance really become a social fact in the country or the majority of the nation is intolerant against the BJP itself? Why are people in Bihar mostly voted against BJP and in favour of grand alliance as is clear from the seats others got which did not even crossed the double figures (06) and parties like LJP or for that matter Manjhi’s HAM proved dismal and Assad-ud-Din Owasi’s AIMIM even couldn’t open its account despite contesting on six seats very seriously? Is BJP’s Bihar base so weak and incompetent that it has not gained any significant ground so far? Has BJP still not reached the Bihar’s significant population of Muslims and other weaker sections of the society that ultimately empowered Nitish-Lalu? Has such a defeat of Amit Shah led BJP turned Nitish Kumar into a national leader and will he challenge the same opponents at the national front in future, only the time will tell?

Perhaps the public wants to hear something different than religion and caste rhetoric and is unhappy with the kind of speeches BJP leadership made during the elections and BJP even reaped the fruit of quota comments made by RSS and suffered due to less grounding and poor actual public touch and foot work as compared to JDU and RJD’s public connect at micro levels. As far as national implications of Mahagatbandhan victory are concerned, is BJP along with its allies going to lose 2019 the same way if the trend of BJP versus everyone continues? How is BJP going to counter this mighty growing trend of BJP versus everyone? The party definitely succeeded against the same destroying trend in Jammu and Kashmir despite the local players were ready to offer unconditional support to Mufti Sayeed led PDP to keep BJP at bay but it was not BJP but PDP who chose BJP simply because BJP was in power at the centre and they could get some good funds to caste their impact in the sensitive state, which exactly happened recently.

Last word

BJP clearly became a victim of Bihar’s strong regional political players and this defeat reflects that even an impressive vote share does not matter, but how can one translate even a small vote share into many seats. BJP’s lack of an actual connect at a grass roots level and a weak local base and an even weaker, amateur alliance partners led to its defeat. This defeat was increased by BJP’s underestimating of significant minorities like Muslims, and doing nothing about it. Further the fallout of the new wave of low level politics during campaigning and continuous use of the divisive language went anti-BJP. Also, BJP’s did nothing about the growing hatred of masses for the party and even downplayed the intolerance debate became a factor. BJP’s lack of control of its radical fringe, and in nutshell its lack of understanding of Bihar, resulted in their poor performance.

Nevertheless, had there been no MahaGatbandan (Grand Alliance), BJP’s impressive vote share (24.4%) and seats won was  a good score and worth competing for. Grand Alliance’s victory in Bihar indeed is a mega victory and can simply be called in Manjhi (Bollywood Movie) style as “Saandar, Jabrjast, Jindabaad”.

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and Social and Political analyst.He writes his columns for various reputed international and national media groups. He has been writing on South Asia's Socio-political realities especially on Kashmir sociology and Conflict Situation at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is a Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor since January 2014. His recent publications include his three books (1)"Kashmir-Yearning for Peace: A Socio-Political history of Uncertainty and Chaos,2016" (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6), (2)'Social Science Research in Conflict Zones,2017' (ISBN: 978-620-2-47937- 0) and (3)'Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive,2018' ( ISBN 81-8324-919-1)]..

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