Bihar proves it can think differently

Girish Nikam
Patna: Supporters celebrate the Mahagathbandhan's (Grand Alliance) victory in Bihar assembly elections in Patna on Sunday, Nov 8, 2015. PTI Photo

Patna: Supporters celebrate the Mahagathbandhan’s (Grand Alliance) victory in Bihar assembly elections in Patna on Sunday, Nov 8, 2015. PTI Photo

What does the verdict of Bihar tell us? That the people of Bihar overwhelmingly have rejected the cow politics. That the attempt to communalise the elections has been rejected. That the attempt to sell the Modi brand of development has also not found favour. That they did not buy the pitch about the re-advent of the “jungle raj”. That they did not think that by voting the Mahagatbandhan(MGB), they would be creating an atmosphere of celebration in Pakistan.

Bihar they decided shall be better off led by someone who has proved his credentials, though major part of it was in the company of his today’s rival. Despite the switch in partner that he did, after dumping his earlier partner, he still continued to evoke more confidence, than the one who parachuted from Delhi and wanted the people to trust him. In short, the Biharis decided that they would rather repose their trust in a Bihari than a Bahari who promised to give them a Bihari, whom he would control!

It was said that the MGB was a non-starter as two strong individuals with two decades of bitter rivalry behind them would never be able to come together and more importantly work together. But at the end of it, this turned out to be the least of the problems for the MGB. The chemistry of the two was such that it seemed as if those two decades had never happened. And this had led to chemistry even among their supporters and cadre. It is this grass root chemistry which spooked the BJP and its allies, though they realized it a little too late.

Patna: A view of Bihar BJP office after the party's loss in the assembly elections in Patna on Sunday, November 8, 2015. Photo - PTI

Patna: A view of Bihar BJP office after the party’s loss in the assembly elections in Patna on Sunday, November 8, 2015.
Photo – PTI

When the realization came, the campaign of the BJP turned rabid! The development agenda went out of the windows and the communal agenda came to the fore. And it was not something subtle from the lower level leaders. It was led right from the top, none less than the Prime Minister himself with his warning about reservation quota being carved out for Muslims from the OBCs. If this was not shocking enough, his trusted party President, came out with “firecrackers in Pakistan” spiel, thereby challenging the Bihari voters directly.

All this only went on to firm up the Bihari voters’ minds further not to allow themselves to become victims of a communal agenda . It should be recalled that this is not the first time Bihar has resisted communalization. As far back as 1990, a newly elected Chief Minister, Lalu Yadav had stopped the Rath Yatra of L.K. Advani and spared Bihar from the communal conflagration, which many other parts of the country witnessed. So, the Biharis had a hoary tradition to uphold and did they and how!

That these results have come amid growing protests across the country about the rising level of intolerance is also an indication of the majority voters of Bihar frowning at it and giving it a thumb down. This would hopefully make the powers-that-be and those behind the powers-that-be who have been mocking at these protests, will see it in its true light and understand the angst behind these protests and address it adequately.

Patna : Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Bihar Congress President Ashok Chaudhary at a press conference after Mahagathbandhan's (Grand Alliance) victory in Bihar assembly elections. Photo - PTI

Patna : Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Bihar Congress President Ashok Chaudhary at a press conference after Mahagathbandhan’s (Grand Alliance) victory in Bihar assembly elections.
Photo – PTI

It is quite interesting to note here that the BJP and its allies had targeted the JD(U) and RJD alliance as a coalition of socially opposed forces. However, as one of the JD(U) leaders pointed out, in fact that these social forces were once upon a time together had split, not on the basis of any social disagreement but because of the differences among the leaders. Once the differences were buried, they seem to have coalesced smoothly.

On the other hand, the BJP’s attempts to bring together the socially and culturally diverse groups like the upper castes and the most backward communities (MBCs and EBCs) together has backfired. In fact in some constituencies, even the upper castes seem to have favoured the MGB in place of the BJP and its allies, without which such an overwhelming result would not be possible. This attempt at social engineering was more fraught with uncertainty, as in Bihar through the last few decades the oppressors were the upper castes and the oppressed were the EBCs and the MBCs. The opportunism of the leaders of the ECBs and MBCs obviously was seen through by their communities and rejected.

For Nitish Kumar these results are as much a resounding victory as it is a challenge. He will have to virtually re-invent himself to run a smooth coalition government, with two others partners, the RJD and the Congress.

With more seats than the JD(U), the RJD will expect a very fair deal for itself and also expect to be consulted at every level of decision making. LaluYadav has indeed made it clear that he has bigger battles at the national level against the BJP after this, thereby making it clear that he would not be sitting in Patna and meddling in the affairs of the Government. But it is easier said than done, considering the pressures he will face from his legislators.

For the Congress which has come out with a hugely surprising performance winning over 65 percent of the 40 seats it contested, it is a re-birth in Bihar. But it will have to keep its ambition limited, if it has to ensure a smooth running of the coalition.

For the BJP and its central leadership, Bihar has been a real eye opener. It can’t dismiss these results as a flash in the pan, as it tended to do after Kejriwal‘s overrun of Delhi. What the BJP will do and how it will respond is another story altogether. For today, Bihar has shown to the country it can think differently when it faces a challenge.