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Bihar: Elections that offered much more than victories, defeats

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This Bihar election was truly a multifaceted election. This was the first election in India amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, with 15-year incumbent government in defender’s role and young Tejaswi trying to make inroads in Bihar. Even though the Nitish led alliance won the election with slim margin there is much to speculate about this election.

Referendum on Centre’s Covid19 handling

This election was just after the USA presidential election in which handling of the pandemic was one of the main factors which inter alias going against the ruling Trump. Considering India’s opposition taking potshots on center’s so-called mishandling, ruling of India’s most backward state in favor of National Democratic Alliance is a huge validation of Centre’s efforts in containing the virus and its relief package. Also, the comprehensive victory in state by-polls reposes the faith in PM’s image.

Rise in JP Nadda’s stature

Nadda a handpicked confidant of Modi Shah was seen as a titular BJP chief with Shah still seen as de facto head. In this election no doubt Shah had a role to play but Nadda took full responsibility of Bihar elections after Shah’s protracted battle with Covid19. He campaigned extensively across Bihar, conducted meetings at booth level to ensure the high turnout & full preparedness, negotiating with Janata Dal(United) & other alliances. With BJP gaining 21 seats & downsizing the Nitish, Nadda has definitely sent a strong message across BJP cadre & also, proved his selection right.

Man, of the match: Tejaswi Yadav

Youngest amongst the Lalu’s kids, an aspirational cricketer & an accidental entrant into a politics in 2015, has already seen extreme turbulences in last 5 years. Seen as another dynast in Indian media. He has definitely come out of his father’s shadow. First time heading the party into a regional election he had a lot to chew, from negotiating with congress & left to standing against the humongous election machinery of BJP. He has gained a lot in this election. By Keeping the election strictly on Bihar’s issues, he smartly nullified BJP’s 370 & ram Mandir rhetoric. Considering PM’s popularity in Bihar, he decided against criticizing him personally in rallies which played out well. Looking from hindsight he’ll surely give a pat on his own back on a decision to add left parties in grand alliance’s fold. Also, he’ll disdain the Congress even more considering their abysmal performance. Still, 1st time leading the party in absence of Lalu & nearing a victory is quite a commendable effort. With this performance he has definitely emerged as a man of the match.

Resurrection of Left

Bihar in the past has witnessed bloody rivalry between CPI(ML) & upper cast organizations. CPI(ML) liberation party which believed in armed rebellion against the bourgeoise Indian State. Along all these years has softened their stand & started participating in the electoral politics back in 90’s. Having its base limited among the most backward castes in few constituencies in Magadh-Bhojpur belt. RJD handed them handful of 19 seats and they have emerged victorious on 12 of them under the leadership of Dipankar Bhattacharya. Other left parties such as CPI(M) & CPI have also bagged 2 seats each. This is a moment of jubilation for leftist cadre & sympathizers across the nation.

The supine congress

Even after the letter bomb of 23 senior most Congress leaders raising the questions on congresses’ first family, party as whole or first family as their patron showed no signs of contesting elections seriously. Rahul Gandhi kept raising questions on national security and intricate challenges in front of economy (only in social media) which are not his forte. Again, failed miserably to tantalize the voters. State like Bihar in which party neither has a strong organization nor a pan Bihar face was relying heavily on Tejashwi’s charisma to drag them beyond the finish line. Congress who had upper cast, SC’s and Muslim vote bank in 1970’s. Now, having lost its base of upper castes and Dalits considerably to the BJP and other small state parties, was confident on winning Muslim dominated seats in seemanchal. Where catching them off-guard Owaisi’s AIMIM bagged whopping 5 seats among which 4 are from Kishanganj loksabha seat which congress won in 2019 general elections. It seems that congress has taken RJD down with its sinking boat.

‘Chirag’ that turned JDU into ashes

Speculations rife across the political circles on alleged backing of BJP’s top brass to LJP. Chirag seen as a BJP’s top henchman in downsizing Nitish. Contested 135 seats in an election mostly against JD(U). Chirag has bagged only a solitary seat but played a spoilsport in JD(U)’s campaign. Dented JD(U) on 27 seats in a closely contested election. In seat wise consideration BJP has certainly rose as a big brother in alliance thanks to Chirag’s LJP.  

BJP’s blue-eyed boys for alliance politics

Two states in which BJP played a second fiddle to their alliance partners for a long time were Bihar and Maharashtra. In Bihar it tried fighting on its own and failed miserably. In Maharashtra where it’s growth was spectacular in post Modi era, left the Shivsena red faced. The animosity between two partners grew to such an extent that Shivsena joined arch-rival congress to keep BJP away from power. The two BJP leaders who were the most baffled were the then CM Devendra Fadnavis and party’s Maharashtra in-charge Bhupendra Yadav. Both of them were chosen to frame campaign strategy in Bihar and to play pivotal roles in negotiations with allies. Having their tongues burnt in Maharashtra both of them were circumspect in taking any decisions viz-a-viz JD(U), Hindustan Awam Morcha(secular) and Vikassheel Insaan Party and up to some extent LJP. It seems that they have corrected their flaws in Maharashtra.

The Modi Magic

In this election PM was the lone savior for crumbling ‘brand Nitish’. This shows how things have changed dramatically in last 10 years. Exactly a decade ago Nitish was seen as a contender for prime Minister ship having won Bihar with 2/3rds majority in 2010 polls. There was a persistent rancor & insecurity about Modi in his mind which culminated in his exit from NDA in 2013 after BJP announced Modi as its PM face. Nitish simply lost his way since then. Even though he won the 2015 Bihar polls the brand Nitish was definitely on a downfall. With facing huge anti-incumbency, he was totally dependent on magic of his past rival. PM conducted 12 rallies along with Nitish across the state. Changing the course of election in NDA’s way. The persistent Modi euphoria was evident amongst the voters.

 Message from the By-polls

BJP toppled 2 congress led state governments by breaking its legislative party. It was its responsibility in both Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh to get most of the rebel MLA’s re-elected. BJP triumphed in Karnataka getting 12/14 in by-election less than a year ago. Now, it has repeated this performance in MP by getting 19/28 in the recent by polls. This message will resonate well amongst the fringe MLA’s of Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The victories in states like Telangana and Manipur corroborates that BJP is no longer a party confined to the Hindi heartland.      

Key takeaways from this election are, even though NDA has won, the victory is not decisive. BJP will have a remote control of Bihar government. Modi is still a trusted face and BJP is still a number one party in the country.

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