People of Bihar represent a dichotomy.
They wanted to reward a person - Nitish Kumar - who got rid of the ‘jungle raj’ in 2005 and typically declined to trust the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, who was promising them, a ‘better Bihar’ and a cushion against second installment of jungle raj of Lalu Prasad.
That’s precisely the Bihar elections for you. I have not answered the priceless question I posed with my previous blog on Bihar – “who will have the last laugh?”
Today that answer has little meaning. Let us examine what went wrong for Narendra Modi, himself a good reader of people’s pulse, and his trusted poll manager Amit Shah. BJP’s negativism guided by ‘excessive obsession’ with Nitish Kumar from the beginning of electioneering when the Chief Minister was not quite yet on the radars for contest enlarged Nitish Kumar’s profile to such levels that he along with Lalu Prasad’s solid support base of Yadavs – who perhaps voted with vengeance - literally eclipsed the saffron party.
Now, what went right for Nitish Kumar?
The success of Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad combine was a huge political lesson that a good face and a good caste combination can make a formidable force to unleash nightmare on most potent rivals. Nitish Kumar made this year’s election a referendum on him and used his sober but personal magnetism. A few Biharis can actually deny that that life had gotten better under Nitish Kumar’s tutelage.
They wanted to reward a person who got rid of ‘jungle raj’ in 2005.
In the process, the jungle raj allegation against Lalu Prasad too did not stick and Modi’s master ability in understanding of crowd psychology to advantage too did not yield results.
“The voters wanted Nitish Kumar’s continuation and many were fed up with Prime Minister Modi’s rhetoric and zero performance of the centre in last 18 months,” rightly said JD(U) leader K C Tyagi later
These put the BJP on the back foot and at later stage when PM Modi charged Nitish Kumar about ‘DNA’ – the local Bihari voters decided to back their “own man” – Nitish. Moreover, the BJP’s ticket distribution and allocation of seats to three allies HAM, LJP and RLSP displeased party’s foot soldiers.
NOTA vote share stood at 9,47,185 votes making it 2.5 per cent of votes polled and Manjhi's party - ironically which even spoke of making their leader the Chief Minister - could poll only 2.3 per cent and thus 8,46,856 votes. Most of these NOTA votes were BJP cadres’ votes in protest against the manner Amit Shah handled the elections.
The RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine actually also benefited from a different kind of backlash – the anguish of upper castes especially Brahmins as they felt “betrayed” after BJP gave away seats to allies of backward class and Dalits and tickets chiefly to Rajputs.
Thus even renowned Brahmin strongholds have been breached. Election results in Bihar therefore for Narendra Modi and BJP are crystal clear message of how elections actually should not be fought.
In terms of fallout, post Bihar-debacle for NDA, the media focus is rightly on the crisis in BJP, especially after four elderly BJP leaders directed their tirade against Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. "To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat in Bihar is to ensure that no one is held responsible," the statement from 4 veterans L K Advani, M M Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar said. This was to contest BJP's highest policy making body Parliament Board's stand that sheer arithmetic led to the crushing defeat and that the defeat must be accepted collectively.
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The crushing defeat for BJP has sparked off a debate among the political circle whether RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had deliberately scored that 'self-goal' for BJP by his comments against quota only to corner the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's team.
Is Modi's loss a RSS gain?
The RSS and BJP watchers know it pretty well that Mohan Bhagwat is not a politically naive person.
"Bhagwat is one of the most political RSS chiefs in recent past. This statement was not made in a closed door meeting. It was given as an interview and no one is convinced that Bhagwatji did not know, he has handed offer a favourite fodder to Lalu Prasad," remarked a senior BJP leader.
In fact, no sooner RSS interview to Sangh fountainhead's own organisers went viral in media, Lalu Prasad had quickly latched on to the statement and dared PM Modi to abolish reservation.
BJP poll strategists admitted even after first two phases of polls -- wherein many seats with Dalit and OBC people went to the elections, the writing was clear that things had gone out of hands. “We know, no magic could help BJP recover that lost ground,” said senior leader C P Thakur, whose son too lost the polls.
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Since coming to power in the May 2014 general elections, Prime Minister Modi tried to make himself a ‘new Indira Gandhi’ – a phrase borrowed from the BJP dissident camp. "The principal reason for the latest defeat is the way party has been emasculated in the last one year," the statement from four veterans said.
For his part, Narendra Modi assumed the 2014 mandate was for him akin to 1984 mandate to Rajiv Gandhi. While Rajiv benefited by sympathy wave as his mother was mercilessly killed by assassins, for Modi the 2014 mandate came as people were fed up with a non-functional MMS regime - of the Congress ruled UPA. Thus they put in lot of expectations in the basket of Modi Sarkar.
Prime Minister cannot blame people of Bihar for their anguish against him as both the BJP and Modi himself had campaigned tirelessly for 'achhey din'.
After Arvind Kejriwal's Broom Revolution in Delhi, the caste idioms and absence of anti-incumbency against two-time Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the ultimate proved nemesis for Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. The fallout could be huge politically. Amit Shah's exit as BJP president looks imminent. And the Prime Minister Modi needs to take the poll outcome of a governance-starved state as ‘alarm bell'.
A fast learner he showed the right vibes when he gave a push to the economic reforms.
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