Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

Making Sense Of Victory

The NDA manifesto was the usual mish mash of wishful thinking and pious wishes. But for a change, the manifesto of the Grand Alliance was sharp and specific.

PTI Photo

Outlook along with others (notably Surjit Bhalla in the Indian express, the Axis exit poll and CSDS-Lokniti post-poll survey) had bet on the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance winning the Bihar election. To the perceptive observer, the direction was clear even before the first phase of polling on October 12. Ground reports in newspapers consistently strengthened that impression although TV channels, both national as well as regional, seemed largely oblivious of it either by accident or by design.

BJP was extremely confident of winning the election till September this year. It did not expect Nitish-Lalu to come together. And when Mulayam Singh Yadav left the alliance in a huff, the pre-poll situation seemed to be playing out according to the script. Propping up Pappu Yadav and forging an alliance with Jitan Ram Manjhi were hailed by commentators as a 'master stroke'. But by the beginning of October, the plot was falling apart.

There were several factors which were, well, blowing in the wind ! But one of the most important factors that was lost sight of by commentators is the stark difference between the two manifestos. The NDA manifesto was the usual mish mash of wishful thinking and pious wishes. But for a change, the manifesto of the Grand Alliance was sharp and specific. If voted to power, the alliance promised 35% reservation for women in Government jobs. It offered unemployment allowance for nine months in a year. It offered to create a corpus to enable entrepreneurs to avail loan from banks.

In contrast, the NDA manifesto offered scooties to 5,000 girls of class X every year. No less a person than the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the manifesto and declared that the NDA would reward merit. Pointed out that the scooties would require fuel, the BJP sheepishly offered to pay for fuel too. But they were silenced once rivals began to mock by pointing out that it would not be possible for 16 year olds to acquire a license. In short, BJP began losing the plot. 

  • United opposition put up by RJD, JD(U) and Congress unlike in 2010 or in 2014.
  • Vote share of these three parties in 2014 reflected in a sense their bottomline. It could not have gone down in 2015 given the mood and circumstances.
  • There was no anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar credited with empowering panchayats, women and improving law & order, infrastructure and electricity supply
  • Caste conclaves, statements by BJP leaders, BJP's ticket distribution etc sent out a strong message that BJP was rallying the forward castes. This was counter-productive in a state dominated by OBCs and Dalits. BJP clearly has not learnt lessons from the Congress which installed four upper caste chief ministers ( Jagannath Mishra, Bindeswari Dubey, Bhagwat Jha Azad and Satyendra Narayan Sinha) between 1980-89 and lost the state in the process.
  • RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's call for review of caste based reservation, the delay by the BJP and the PM in contradicting him also polarized the state. By the time the Prime Minister started pitching himself as an OBC, an EBC and speaking in favour of caste-based reservation, the die was cast.
  • BJP erred in not projecting a chief ministerial face and turning it into a Narendra Modi vs Nitish Kumar popularity contest.
  • BJP lost both face and credibility by attacking the Grand Alliance as casteist and opportunistic while itself aligning with Jitan Ram Manjhi; it talked of Jungle Raj but saw no contradiction in forcing the Prime Minister to campaign for dons like Suraj Bhan Singh etc.
  • Over-exposure of the Prime Minister, who addressed as many as 26 rallies, brought otherwise national issues like prices of pulses, ban on beef and the lynching of a man in his own bedroom at Dadri on suspicion of having stored beef etc to the fore. The Prime Minister's refusal to address these issues made it worse for the BJP.

Lalu Prasad Yadav in his own inimitable style had declared that this election would be the revenge of the poor. And it does seem to herald a return to socialist principles and politics.