Five lessons from Bihar results
Ajith Vijay Kumar
Before the dust settles and those who make a living by ruling over others get into political exigencies, here’s the ‘take away’ from the astonishing poll results in Bihar.
A state like no other, if not for anything else then at least for the political acumen of its denizens - who have probably for the first time bet right on the winning horse without going by their ‘by default’ affiliations.
Lesson 1: For Nitish Kumar
The writing is on the wall. People of Bihar - once the shining light of the east and now compared with sub-Saharan Africa on a host of Human Development Index metrics - have bet everything on him.
In him they see a new tomorrow, a day when they will prosper in their own state, and won’t have to take that night train to magnets of the new emerging India.
Politically, the fact that he has broken into the erstwhile MY (Muslim-Yadav) strongholds makes it clear that if there’s one mantra for the future – it is development.
Nitish may have had shown a discomfort towards the poster boy of Hindutva and it may be for veritable reasons, but the fact that his ally has won nine out of 10 seats it contested can’t be just passed off as inconsequential.
Yes, his posturing helped in garnering a bigger slice of concerted votes, but the benefit of a strong ally shouldn’t be missed.
Notwithstanding his repeated assertion that he is not in the PM’s race and that he can’t handle the highest executive office, Nitish, who is a product of the JP movement, must understand that the game is bigger and Patna is not the last stop on his journey.
Lesson 2: For the BJP
Basking in what many – at least the detractors – perceive as reflected glory of the man whose arrow hit the bulls eye, the BJP appears to consciously swarming mediascape with stories of triumph.
Although it’s true that Sushil Modi, as Deputy CM and Finance Minister, played a key role in shaping up the magnificent edifice in Bihar, it is also true that the BJP – post the results - has lost one more state to a regional satrap; who started on an even keel but has grown bigger and bigger with time to finally make his “partners” seem minnows.
It would be pertinent on their part to remember the Odisha experience – the sour taste surely lingers – where the BJP has been reduced to being inconsequential after parting ways with Naveen Patnaik.
Moreover, the very fact that they could not bring Narendra Modi to the Bihar scene – one theory says that the stand off was stage-managed, while others believe it was the handiwork of those who don’t want the Gujarat strongman to develop a national character- doesn’t augur well for them in coalition politics.
Lesson 3: For Lalu Yadav
The ghost of “Jungle Raj” has come home in its scariest avatar and Lalu can’t even hide in the attic; for the whitewash has been so severe and so profound that he stands exposed.
He has been beaten in the very game he so jocularly claimed to be the master of and indeed the future does seem bleak.
It is clear that the Yadav king’s endeavours towards social justice and empowering the marginal classes has in a way paved the way for the rise of Nitish’s development centric politics coupled with skilful mobilisation of the Maha-Dalits.
The empowered now understand their rights and realise that they too need security, roads, electricity, and education to fulfil their ambitions for a better life, away from grinding poverty.
They want to move away from the lantern days to a new era of light and prosperity.
Lalu now seems to understand this, but:
1. The creepy baggage from his 15-years of misrule, and this despite his much publicised achievements as Rail Mantri, played a role to push him to the brink.
2. Nitish was smarter, at least five years ahead, in reading the writing on the wall - progress.
Postscript: No matter what the pollsters say, it’s too early to write off Lalu. He may have lost poorly, but he still commands the support of Yadavs and a substantial chunk of Muslims. A wrong move by the NDA combine, and he may very well be back in the reckoning.
Not to forget Lalu’s partner in the debacle, Ram Vilas Paswan. The Paswans are not with him anymore, he has minuscule political presence…is Rajya Sabha MP, but what next?
Lesson 4: For the Congress
Despite the high-octane campaigning by its tallest leaders, the Congress has received possibly the severest of poll drubbings.
Rahul Gandhi addressed as many as 15 rallies; Sonia and the PM were also there to stress on the achievements of the UPA. Although they had a point that many of the ‘game changing’ development schemes were conceptualised by the Centre, they failed to understand that in a state like Bihar, air-dropped politics and politicians don’t work.
And that ground realities there, this time, were not just about caste configurations.
With just four seats, down from the nine they held in the outgoing Assembly, as Sonia rightly said, “They have started from scratch.”
More importantly, it’s high time that the grand-old party recognises that negative campaigning by way of discounting achievements and questioning the conduct of opponents won’t cut ice in states which have a strong regional leader.
Such regional strong hands can, and have time and again turned the tables on the Congress by going to town claiming injustice.
The original flag bearers of the reform process can surely do better. A party of such a scale surely need not be scared of cultivating men of mettle in the regional space.
Lesson 5: For Non-Biharis
If the two-third vote in favour of development is anything to go by, Biharis have “ARRIVED” on the scene.
Breaking away the shackles of caste-driven politics - with ample help from Nitish’s deft handling of “equations” - they have, make no mistake, staked claim for a slice of the growing India story.
Although no Bihari may agree it publicly, but many have accepted in private, that for a greater part of the new century, they have been uncomfortable in accepting that they belong to Bihar.
Hounded out from other states; their beaten, mutilated egos, eager for vengeance, it seems, has finally found the messiah with the bottle of the new elixir, ‘Naya Bihar’.
Bihar has in recent years made rapid strides in development and it should be a source of encouragement for even those not belonging to the land of the Buddha.
Record sales of cars, the first multiplex in Patna, late-night movie goers, booming entrepreneurship; Bihar is changing and it augurs well for the rest of the country too, as the idea of a strong India gets amplified several times, even if we remove one alphabet from the ‘BIMARU’ tag; others have made the start, now it’s Bihar’s turn..
What Bihar and Biharis need is support, not just from their elected representatives but also from you and I.
For them, pride is now a non-tradable commodity.