Delhi was not an aberration. The epic verdict in Bihar shows the tide seems to turning away from the BJP. At least indications are that it will decisively if the dynamic duo - Narendra Modi and Amit Shah - don’t keep an ear to the ground.
From battleground Bihar, it is in contradictions that they will find the major takeaways:
1. Campaigns Alone Don’t Win Battles: The common man of India is extremely discerning. Having seen Netas come and Netas go, making promises and then breaking them – the Indian voter is looking for tangible results and not sloganeering.
2. Divisive Campaigns Lead to Defeat: Attempts to polarise voters have been rejected. Whether BJP’s claim that Pakistan would celebrate JD(U)’s win or a cow’s poster made in poor taste, people don’t seem to have swayed by inflammatory statements and extreme positioning.
3. Development is Key: In modern India, the young and restless are looking for education and jobs. And they are looking for respect; respect for a state that had for too long become a subject of derision due to its dismal and constant bottom of the table performance on development indices. Nitish Kumar has changed the way India looks at Bihar and Biharis look at themselves. Even if NREGA was a key factor in enablement, people of the state feel that Nitish will be able to deliver “acche din” to them, much like most of India felt for Modi in the Lok Sabha elections. They have seen their lives improve in the last 10 years, it is an advantage that they don’t want to squander.
4. Caste and Religion Continue to Matter: The Indian contradiction comes into play again. In Bihar, mere development and economic growth is not enough. Muslims in large numbers were waiting to show their demographic grip on Bihar particularly after the recent embitterment caused due to attack on their dietary habits, and nationwide insecurity felt by those who are not willing to toe the ‘Right’ line. Besides, the Dalit and Mahadalit combination proved to be a winner, even if it meant former bêtes noires putting up a show of bonhomie. The RSS chief did not help matters as he talked of making reservations a thing of the bygone era. Nor did V K Singh with his “every stone thrown at a dog” nonsense.
5. Personalities win Elections: The Grand Alliance had a grand edge – the chief ministerial candidate was a known face and with an enviable track record. BJP did not have a name at the state level to match Nitish Kumar – it is a lesson that Modi learnt of making presidential style campaign work nationally in a parliamentary democracy like India. Unfortunately, he forgot to replicate the model in Bihar.
6. Behind the Scenes Chankayas can Engineer Wins: As much as one might tom-tom about Nitish Kumar being the face of the Grand Alliance and the man Bihar has voted for, the story of success scripted on the drawing board by masters like Prashant Kishore deserve a mention. First Modi and now Nitish – these seemingly infallibles heroes have shrewd thinkers crafting their triumphs.
7. India Vs State: Despite all the gyan that Modi may be given about what went wrong for him, the truth is that the same people may have voted differently had this been a national election. The electorate understands the difference and implication of having different parties running their day to day government versus the larger picture. All said and done, Nitish would have made for an unlikely prime ministerial candidate.