Blinded by communal bile, BJP fails to read Bihar

Written by Mohammed Sajjad | Published on: November 26, 2015
by Nitish and Prashant Kishor in Patna’s Shri Krishna Memorial Hall, Nitish’s instructions made it pretty clear that JDU workers were to make pointed rebuttals with factsheets of accomplishments; the rest was to left for the RJD and Lalu. Nitish said, “Laluji ko Hanuman ji ka gada chalanay do (let Laluji make use of the mace, a weapon associated with the mythical monkey-god Hanuman).”

The PM’s divisive speeches in the later phases of the election, such as the ones at Buxar and Darbhanga (where he invoked terrorism), and Amit Shah’s speech at Raxaul, etc, backfired. Also, their prevarications on floating too many names from too many castes ended up pleasing none[v]. While such speeches lowered the prestige of the office of the PM, Nitish’s rebuttals raised him to the status of a decent statesman, something reportedly admitted even by the RSS. Nitish also took up the matter of regional pride, the historic lack of which is supposed to have been a bottleneck in the economic development of Bihar, as suggested by Shaibal Gupta, an economist and advisor to Nitish. Hence the slogan ‘Bihari’ (son of the soil) versus ‘Bahari’ (outsider). The same issue was taken up by Lalu in a different way. In his characteristic wit and rustic wisdom, Lalu described the persona of the two Gujaratis (Narendra Modi and Amit Shah) as being unwanted in Bihar. He made the audience recall that Amit Shah stood accused of such crimes that he had to be “banished from Gujarat”; “Woh tarhipaar hai.” Lalu’s mimicry of the PM’s speeches inflicted serious damage on Modi’s persona, stripping him of the charisma he enjoyed in 2014. Also, the PM’s offer of a special package in a manner as if the territory of Bihar and the collective identity of its people were up for auction was taken as an affront.

Inflation costs BJP dear

The PM’s failure in controlling inflation and his non-fulfilment of promises were the BJP’s greatest disadvantage. Rising prices of pulses, vegetables, and edible oils, failure to deliver against black money, huge cuts in the Indira Awas Yojana (shelters for poor), and the non-implementation of the Jan Dhan Yojana were greatly resented by the people. Voters complained that they had opened bank accounts for the Jan Dhan Yojana by selling their goats and bicycles (which their daughters had got from the government). They thought the PM had cheated them. Lalu was quick to capitalize. His hoardings articulated these complaints by displaying a slogan—Gharibon badla le lena jis ne dukh pahunchaya hai (O poor folks, take revenge on those who have made your lives miserable). The JDU’s hoardings said: Jhansay mein na aayengay, Nitish ko jitaayengay (We won’t be misled any more, we will make Nitish win).

Nitish was able to convince the peasantry that if the BJP won in Bihar, its MLAs will enable it to get its numbers right in the Rajya Sabha and pass the Land Acquisition Bill--a prospect as alarming as reservations being done away with. The Forbesganj killings (where a BJP-corporate nexus had become evident: the investor concerned was said to have close links with the then deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi) had convinced the peasantry all the more that their lands would be taken away, with state violence, if the BJP came to power[vi].

The good performance of the Left was also because of this. Its campaigns further persuaded the people to vote against the BJP by educating them about how corporations were waiting to snatch away their lands. It created class awareness by discussing the Amir Das and the D Bandopadhyay committee reports on land reforms. The CPI-ML managed to win three seats--its candidate Mehboob Alam won with a huge margin from an assembly seat in Katihar district in Seemanchal (eastern Bihar). Given the intensely bipolar fight in the state and a resource crunch, the three-seat win is not a mean achievement for the party. What is intriguing is why the Left didn’t align with the Mahagathbandhan given the tremendous threat to secularism, for the sake of which the Left, not long ago, was in