Updates after the completion of two phases of Bihar elections indicate that Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance consisting of the RJD and the Congress party is heading towards a thumping majority. Aside from that, I have my own strong reasoning, arguments and succinct logic that add to my confidence of Nitish’s certain victory and eventually the BJP’s worst defeat.
Nitish Kumar has been the face of the grand alliance, while the BJP has miserably failed to project any local leader to lead the campaign for Bihar so far. Nitish’s is a pure, pious and clean face, a combination which is very rare in Indian politics today. Despite having ruled Bihar for ten years, Nitish continues to remain unaffected by anti-incumbency, which is another rarity in Indian politics. No BJP leader from Bihar has the capability, popularity and the civility at par with Nitish Kumar.
On the contrary our Prime Minister Modi, who kicked off his campaign against the grand alliance with pomp and show has only become a huge cause of worry for the BJP- a sort of liability. That’s because the anti- incumbency against his government at the centre has started growing and is evident at all fronts.
Growing religious intolerance, fueled by Modi’s own trusted lieutenants, soaring prices of essential commodities such as onions and now dals or pulses, corruption charges against his colleagues in the centre and state governments particularly in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra and his utter failure to deliver anything substantive on bringing back black money to India are just some of the reasons behind growing disenchantment against Modi government among ordinary citizens up and down the country.
Not only has Nitish displayed exceptional sophistication and maturity while forming the grand alliance, but also executed the seat sharing arrangements among alliance partners and campaign plan with sheer smoothness.
This truly demonstrates the kind of comfort and support, both the Congress and RJD Supremo Lalu Yadav must have provided to Nitish while finalising the nuts and bolts of the grand alliance.
Nitish has handled his own responsibility as the leader of the alliance very astutely. To corroborate, I must share that I happen to come across many election publicity materials not only with Nitish’s own picture on it, but also the symbols of all the three parties.
It’s significant because the JDU must have invested its own resources in the publicity material highlighting the symbols of other coalition partners. In the era of coalition politics, I wonder how many political parties will take care of the symbols of their partners on any publicity exercise?
Contrast to that, we are all aware of the huge uncertainty and shenanigans that marred the BJP’s seat sharing exercise. BJP shrewdly ensured that it grabbed maximum share of seats from its alliances. I am sure this must have frustrated its allies, even though they have not made any public acknowledgement of this.
Unlike Nitish, BJP did not provide the kind of comfort level to its allies they deserved. As news continues to pour in, it seems that the allies of BJP, namely Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and Upendra Kuswaha’s RLSP appear to be incredibly suffocated and throttled. There’s little doubt that the BJP-led campaign has lacked smoothness and sense of cohesion all along.
BJP made a huge mistake by targeting Lalu Prasad Yadav. It is only now they may realise that the constant attack of Lalu by the BJP has ended up consolidating his vote-bank. As per the latest information from Bihar, Lalu’s captive voters belonging to the Yadav and Muslim communities are not only getting consolidated at significantly large-scale but also getting transferred in favour of JDU and congress candidates. This was a cause of concern for grand alliance before the elections, but it now appears to have been proven wrong.
Even if the BJP’s original modus operandi would have included targeting of Nitish Kumar, they could not have done it primarily because, it was always going to be very difficult to find a flaw in Nitish’s governance.
Modi’s barb regarding Nitish’s DNA or him being arrogant has already become backfired spectacularly. Frustrated BJP and RSS even tried to play communal cards through Dadri controversy. But once again, even this proved to be a costly mistake.
In Bihar the caste-based identity has always overpowered any attempt to divide the local voters along the lines of their religious faiths. Neutral voters, who neither support the BJP nor have allegiance to Congress are deeply annoyed with the Dadri lynching and the subsequent attempts to extract political mileage by leaders from the BJP or its affiliate groups.
This was well articulated by an eminent journalist and writer Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, who predicted that BJP will suffer a terrible defeat in Bihar election. Aiyar’s argument was that a party that kills people merely for eating beef can never win elections.
Bihar is one of the most politically aware states in the country. Whether it’s paan ki gumti or tea stall or for that matter drawing room discussions, Biharis love to discuss the goings on of the country and even world.
It is almost certain that Bihar is in no mood to accept BJP as a party to form the government in the state. The Dadri lynching case has acted as a catalyst in ruining whatever little chances the party claimed it had.
In the absence of any choice coupled with international outrage on his mysterious silence, Prime Minister Modi was forced to comment on this issue but this too backfired miserably. For, Modi sounded unconvincing and lacked clarity with many people finding his explanation disingenuous.
For BJP, Dadri may have been an insigificant incident, but the party made a costly error by underestimating the intellects of Bihari voters, who usually tend to observe even minutest of things concerning Indian politics.
Even arithmetically, the grand alliance is way ahead of the NDA. Agree that both sides have resorted to playing caste-based politics. BJP has been indulging in upper caste politics and desperately tried to woo the 2% Dushadh voters with the help of Paswan and 3-4% Mushar voters through Manjhi.
But the fact remains that the BJP could not lure the Dalit and the Maha Dalit voters even by aligning with Paswan and Manjhi. As far as Kuswaha’s (4%) voters are concerned, a sting operation on Awdhesh Kushwaha – the sacked cabinet minister in Nitish’s government- has caused huge resentment among Kushwaha community of Bihar thereby causing yet another disappointment for the BJP.
To the best of my knowledge and information, This is the first time in many decades that Yadavs, Kurmis and Kushwaha have come in favour of the grand alliance, which already enjoys the support of Muslims, Maha Dalits and EBC.
And not to forget Nitish’s own captive women vote bank. Bihari women, who always outnumbered men in casting their votes have done the same in the first two stages of the elections concluded so far. What’s also very interesting and a refreshing development for Congress’ upper caste candidates is that they are not getting rejected by their own community voters. Voters, who have historically voted for the JDU and the RJD too are coming out in favour of Congress candidates with enthusiasm. Don’t be surprised if the Congress’performance comes as a pleasantly surprise to most of us when counting begins on 8 November.
The author is a senior Congress leader and former Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha