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#BiharResult: when Chanakyas looked stupid and democracy won

KG Suresh | Updated on: 9 November 2015, 9:22 IST

The result

  • The Grand Alliance has defeated the BJP hands down
  • Nearly all exit polls had predicted a neck and neck fight
  • Nitish is now the king and Lalu Prasad the kingmaker

The takeaway

  • PM should use more discretion in campaigning for local polls
  • The BJP could have done better by focusing only on vikas
  • Will Lalu allow Nitish a hassle free ride on the development highway?

The verdict is out. And once again, the pundits and exit polls that predicted a neck and neck fight were proved wrong. Even the largely reliable pollster Today's Chanakya looked stupid.

Nitish is king and Lalu Prasad the kingmaker.

Read: Congratulations Nitish Kumar! But here's what we'll be watching you for.

For the BJP, the year began with a massive loss in Indraprastha and ended with a loss of face in Pataliputra. TV channels, which were rooting for one or the other alliance, have suddenly switched loyalties, and the social media is abuzz with "I told you so" messages.

Frantic search is on for scapegoats, from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's statement on reservation to the Dadri lynching, as if the people of Bihar did not have any issues of their own.

Undoubtedly, the buzz over "intolerance", including Award Wapsi, did create an intellectual climate against the ruling dispensation, manufactured or not. But the fact remains that the secularism vs communalism debate has been raised ad nauseam in every election across India, at least since the BJP's advent in national politics.

And going by the saffron surge over the years, the issue has not cut much ice with the country's electorate.

Caste matters

Let us face it. Howsoever one may wish it away, caste remains a critical factor in Indian elections, more so in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The Yadavs, feeling left out for the last decade, buried their hatchet with arch rival Kurmis and voted with a vengeance for the Grand Alliance, ensuring the RJD chief who politically empowered them returned to the helm of affairs.

Of course, both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad deserve credit for smooth seat sharing and subsequent vote transfer.

But to attribute the Bihar result to caste alone would be erroneous. Nitish, with the BJP as his partner, was the face of development in Bihar, and over the past decade, he has raised the aspirational level of the people.

BJP didn't have a formidable ally like Lalu. Paswan, Kushwaha were just products of Modi wave: @kg_suresh

Roads came up where only holes existed, law and order was in a far better condition compared to the days of extortion, school students were getting cycles and scholarships, the power situation improved. Still, much more remains to be done.

No doubt people have great regard for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as was amply reflected in the Lok Sabha election result last year, but the BJP didn't have a local face in whom the people could repose their faith.

Strategic blunders

Notwithstanding Modi carpet bombing campaign, the BJP committed other strategic mistakes as well. They did not have a formidable ally like Lalu. Both Paswan and Kushwaha were, more or less, products of the Modi wave rather than powerful entities themselves.

As someone once pointed out, when a lion hunts a deer in the forest, its only a one-time meal for the former but a life or death matter for the latter. While the BJP has full majority in the Lok Sabha and a mandate for another four years or so, for Nitish and Lalu, it was a do or die situation.

So, they put everything at stake, sacrificed their egos, ambitions and bitterness of the past, and came out with flying colours.

But will this maturity displayed by the two leaders sustain in the long run? With a larger seat share, will Lalu push for his kin to be included in the new dispensation? Will Nitish be able to ride hassle free on the development highway?

Nitish can now realise his ambition of being projected as the national alternative to Modi: @kg_suresh

The Janata Parivar has a long record of not going together for long. Outside its 7, Jantar Mantar office in Delhi, it used to be said that the message to the parivar's pan chewing politicians was often replaced with "Don't split here".

Another concern is whether Nitish will bury the hatchet and work closely with the Centre and bring succour to the people of Bihar?

Harsh winter ahead

As for the impact on national politics, the coming days would witness a more aggressive opposition to the NDA both within and outside the parliament, making it increasingly difficult for the Modi regime to push its economic reforms agenda.

Nitish would also realise his long-term ambition of being projected as the national alternative to Modi. He already has the backing of satraps such as Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee. Where would that leave the Congress and Rahul Gandhi? While there won't be any direct challenge to either Modi or Amit Shah within the BJP, critics such as Arun Shourie may question their Midas touch.

The BJP has quite a few lessons to learn from this election. It's not a great idea to always field the prime minister in local polls; it diminishes both his stature and mandate. Too many issues spoil the broth. The party should have focused only on vikas. It would have done better by avoiding a direct attack on Nitish Kumar as, much like Kejriwal, he enjoyed popular sympathy.

At the end of the day, Indian democracy has won once again and one sincerely hopes the celebratory spirit of Diwali would eclipse the bitterness of the electoral feud.

The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.

Also read- #BiharResults: what Nitish-Lalu victory means. And why it matters beyond Bihar

#BiharResults: 10 factors on which Bihar voted

Bihar verdict: the idea of India is at stake

First published: 9 November 2015, 9:22 IST
KG Suresh @kg_suresh

KG Suresh is a senior journalist based in Delhi.