Monday, November 09, 2015

Bihar 2015: What Next?

The Bihar assembly election results are out. The people of Bihar have given the green signal to the “grand alliance” of Nitish, Lalu and Congress to “govern” them for the next five years. And continuing the recent election trends in India, the margin is a decisive one with 178 out of the 243 seats going to the combination. 

The election results came as a bolt from the blue for all analysts on the social media. Since the results have come in, everyone of them is trying to fit their own hypothesis on the results. How the votes added up, how the numbers compared with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which caste vote bank voted for whom, what was the impact of X's speech in Y's constituency etc. All this while conveniently forgetting that it is only the actual voter who matters. And voters are smart. After all as they say in Bihar, "खाओ पियो नोच के, वोट डालो सोच के". 

While watching all the action from the outside, I built up my own hypothesis on the happenings.
  1. The coming together of the "Grand Alliance" was based on sheer survival instinct. Lalu had been in wilderness for long and can't stand in any elections himself. Nitish was licking his wounds from a big ego clash with Modi. And Congress was clutching at straws to stay relevant. To stay relevant in national politics, they had no option but to stick together. The Assembly bye-elections earlier had proved that they could succeed if they stayed together.
  2. The Grand Alliance was able to ensure that their votes weren't divided. How they managed to convince their disparate "vote banks" to vote for a single candidate is a major achievement in itself. And also ensuring that their were very few rebel candidates in their midst. An equal seat-share between RJD and JDU while leaving a decent chunk for Congress worked out quite well for them. [I thought Congress's share was more than deserved, but they provided big time returns. Wondering where did Congress find so many winning candidates]
  3. On the other hand, BJP's allies were more trouble than their worth. The likes of Manjhi and Paswan had only their own self-interest in mind. Thus the squabbles over seat sharing, and the presence of rebel candidates in places. 
  4. Nitish Kumar, had one major factor going for him. There had been actual, visible, all-round development in Bihar under his watch; improved law and order situation, better roads, improved electrification, couple of big industrial projects being set-up, upcoming centers of higher education and an overall improved image of the state. The ego-battle with Modi was the only dent in his otherwise clean image (a factor only for the internet analysts and not with the voter on the ground).[But then when has anyone voted for development in elections]
  5. Some of the utterings by the BJP leaders and their associates, duly publicized by a hyper-ventilating media also impacted their own vote-share. Beef, Cow, Pakistan, Caste, Reservations, Bihari DNA etc. - they helped generate some votes, but alienated another chunk. Not sure whether this गाये पे चर्चा experiment should continue any longer.Although the phase -wise voting patterns do indicate that this may have worked in BJP's favour.
  6. Lack of a local leader in the BJP. We never knew who would become the CM of Bihar, if BJP had won. While the Grand Alliance had Nitish as the declared CM candidate from the beginning. 
In the end, keeping all theories aside, politics was the only winner. Nitish retains his fiefdom with Lalu's presence keeping him in check. Lalu gains time to build his empire for his sons. Congress gets some breathing space while BJP needs to introspect and rethink its strategies. Also, the Central government needs better engagement with the rejuvenated Opposition, otherwise the Parliament will not function at all.

So, the key question remains. What next for Bihar? The continued शुशाषण of Nitish, as has been the case for the last ten years, OR a return to the Jungle Raj era of Lalu, the previous 15 years? If one goes by the social media, people (read BJP supporters) have already concluded that it will be the latter as Lalu has won, while conveniently ignoring the "development" under Nitish? A case of selective amnesia? 

I was recollecting the results from 5 years back, when Nitish Kumar was the star. It was quite funny at the time to hear people going gaga about him and talking about change, when he had just been re-elected. Now the same people are quite "upset" blaming the "illiterate, casteist" voters of Bihar, because they chose to re-elect Nitish again. Or is it because his shifted allegiance from social media darling BJP to social media pariahs Lalu and Congress? 

Anyways, my best wishes to my home state. I certainly hope that the development continues while the fringe elements (cutting across political lines) are kept in check. And then hopefully, the promised अच्छे दिन will truly arrive.. And as for the people of Bihar, you can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

P.S. My post after the 2010 election, Mostly still relevant. (Link)