Signals From Bihar: BJP and Left 'Sure Winners', Congress 'Neither Here Nor There'
THE CITIZEN COMMENT
No one from the Bharatiya
Janata Party congratulated JD(U) chief and former Chief Minister of Bihar
Nitish Kumar for the NDA victory, and yet he seems to be set on becoming the
top boss again despite his party’s poor performance in these Assembly
elections. It is clear that he has taken the brunt of the anti-incumbency in
the state with the BJP steering clear of the blame and putting him in the dock.
And in case anyone missed the point, former ally Chirag Paswan who now leads
his father’s Lok Janshakti Party was unleashed on Nitish Kumar as the CM and
the individual responsible for Bihar’s ailments.
Good strategy that worked, with the BJP gaining at the expense of the JD(U)
even though the LJP barely performed with just one seat in its coffer. However,
Chirag Paswan who was instrumental in his father Ram Vilas Paswan in joining
the BJP can be sure of rewards for a job well done.
One would have expected Nitish Kumar to indulge in some introspection, and
chart his way forward with the realisation that he is being eaten alive —slowly
but surely—by the BJP. And his political ambitions already diluted —remember he
was once the almost certain Prime Ministerial candidate of the non-BJP
parties—might become extinct altogether if he becomes the CM of Bihar as the
leader of a minority party in a majority alliance. But that thought,judging
from his chief advisor KC Tyagi’s remarks has not been allowed to cross Nitish
Kumar’s mind, with the JD(U) having decided to remain with the BJP live or die.
The BJP and the Left have gained from these elections, both parties with a
cadre, strong ideology and work on the ground. This in itself is a strong
signal from this highly political state that is significant in itself.
Although the mahagathbandhan did not make it to the top it is the signals from
that side that make for interesting reading. The RJD under Tejashwi Yadav has
emerged as the single largest party, a peoples tick mark for his strategy of
appealing over caste and religion to the youth. He has acquired a set of able
advisors, Professor and MP Manoj Jha and CPI-ML’s Dipankar, who have
facilitated his emergence as a leader in these polls. In that he stepped firmly
out of his father Lalu Prasad Yadav’s shadows, and moved away from the
limitations of caste and religious alliance, to embrace a wider constituency of
youth. In the process he also left behind the baggage of corruption that had
followed Lalu Prasad Yadav and at the age of 31 years has sent out a signal,
despite the electoral defeat, that he at least is in position to play the part
of a strong opposition. And has age on his side, and the mandate on his side.
It is easy here to say that the Congress should sit down for deep
introspection, but this is not going to happen. Before the elections the party
demanded more seats than it has the capacity to contest in Bihar, and even when
given a good 70 was unable to make much of it, losing a good 50 seats in the
process. And thereby ensuring a mahagathbandhan defeat. It is sad that as soon
as it was clear that the Congress was on the losing wicket, it latched on to
Owaisi and his AIMM to insist that he was responsible for defeating the grand
alliance. Owaisi won five seats only, and while many do regard him as a BJP
mole, the Congress whining certainly does not merit respect.
There is a certain sense of entitlement within the Congress party that feeds
into its greed. Instead of, like the Left parties, selecting the seats where it
has a base and possibility of winning, it wants to contest all that it can lay
its hands on despite having little to no organisation in states like Bihar that
can mop up the votes. I would not blame Rahul Gandhi for this defeat, as he has
no organisation to rely on and the party managers do little except render
The Left has emerged from these elections, like the BJP, as a sure winner. For
the first time in years it was accommodated by the RJD and given a fair number
of seats that it won . The performance of the CPI-ML that has kept its base in
Bihar despite setbacks is admirable as is of the other two communist parties.
Interestingly, the Left win shows that politics today has little space for the
neither here nor there attitude of parties like the Congress and prefers a
clear cut alternative that does not mince words. This backed with work on the
ground brought the Left parties the vote, and will ensure a strong voice
against the BJP government in the coming months and years.
It is clear from Bihar that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to hold
sway, as the BJP sought votes under his name. The party accepted Nitish Kumar
as the next CM but did not project him during the campaign. And definitely not
now either. The Bihar CM has lost the courage he used to be identified with as
this would have been a good time to mend fences with the opposition, and support
Tejashwi Yadav as the chief minister. But the desire of power, or fear, or both
has come in Kumar’s way and from being a strong candidate for Prime Minister he
is now just a weak, supported candidate for Chief Minister.