PATNA: A huge banner came up at the gates of BJP headquarters off Birchand Patel Marg in Patna late evening on Thursday. It simple said, ‘Bhaiya bahar barkaar hai, Nitishe-Modi ke Sarkaar hai’ (Whatever brouhaha outside, the Nitish-Modi government stays).
The Bihar NDA worked magic on Thursday, taking down Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal-led coalition of Congress, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha and Vikassheel Insaan Party, and crushing the overwhelming caste combination it represented. It swept up 39 out of the 40 seats, leaving the Congress with only one seat and decimating others.
It was a victory for ‘Vikas Purush’ Nitish Kumar, whose development works made for the telling blow.
Combined with the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP slogan of nationalism, it dismantled caste aggregations that had kept Bihar in the electoral thrall for so long.
The win also projected the seamless electoral trade-off that the NDA had consummated: the BJP, which had won 22 seats in 2014, magnanimously gave away seven seats to JD(U), allowing it to fight the crunch seats in Bihar’s north-east Seemanchal constituencies, where minorities hugely mattered.
It worked. Powered by Kumar’s mantra of secular approach to politics, Muslim-dominated constituencies like Katihar, Kishanganj, Araria, Madhepura were all capitulated to JD(U); proving yet again that issues like lynching, minority appeasement, Triple Talaq, Article 370 and 35A were passé in Bihar’s political discourse. JD(U) shielded BJP here.
BJP state president Nityanand Sharma, who won from Ujiarpur, ascribed the victory to the duo of ‘Vikas Premi’ (Kumar) and ‘Desh Premi’ (Modi): “Together, they rose above sectarian and caste barriers.”
Development mattered in Bihar, as Kumar’s focus on bringing power to all villages, infrastructure improvement, laying roads and highways, and improving connectivity, while providing a better law and order scenario compared to the RJD days, went home. The Central schemes of Ujjwala, Swacchata, Kisan Samman Yojana and Ayushman health cards resonated with rural folks, helping them override caste barriers.
The scale of the victory was also thanks to the absence of the RJD chief himself. RJD campaigns sorely missed Lalu’s gift of gab, his raw appeal among voters, and his organisational skills, as the party had to fall back on the callow leadership of young Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, a former deputy chief minister himself, who found that his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav too could put up candidates against official candidates.
The overt calls for alliance based on caste and community alienated those outside the Muslim-Yadav alliance, creating a solid counter-polarisation inclination, which brought down the alliance.
Even the RJD propaganda that an NDA at the Centre would compromise job quotas for the poor and reward only the upper castes, failed to work this time, as it had in 2015 Assembly polls.
RJD’s stand against 10 per cent quota for upper caste poor in educational institutions worked against it; an example being the loss of its popular upper caste leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh in Vaishali.
In fact, even the addition of Dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi and OBC leader Upendra Prasad Kushwaha who had split from NDA, did not help. Kushwaha lost both Ujiarpur and Karakat he fought from.
The mahagathbandhan also failed for its lack of unanimity, delay in finalising candidates’ nominations and continuous squabbling, which created powerful rebels. It also erred in giving too much importance to parties like Vikassheel Insaan Party, which took five crucial seats even as the overrated RLSP bagged seven seats, none of which they won.
The seats allocated to them at the cost of the RJD and the Congress made for a slide, from which the alliance never recovered.