Janata parivar loses semi-final in Bihar
The symbol of good governance (<g data-gr-id="84">shushan</g>), the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar has lost the semi-final of the electoral bout. No amount of explanation and excuse would alter the reality that while the BJP-led NDA swept state Legislative Council election with the alliance winning 14 seats, the Nitish Kumar-led alliance managed to win just nine of the 24 seats. The BJP nevertheless won 12 seats on its own and Nitish had to be content with just five seats against ten it contested for.
In fact in the morning of the Election Day, July 7, it had become explicit that Nitish had lost the battle. After casting his vote in <g data-gr-id="116">Patna</g> he had said that his party JD(U) had not equated the Council elections to its prestige like the BJP leadership. Notwithstanding the leadership putting extra energy and resources, Nitish tried to maintain a low profile and claimed that the party hardly has any role to play in these polls. Nitish had said, “All I want to say is that BJP should turn back from their statements after the results. We are confident that we will win”. The fact is that all the parties had a massive stake. It was also apparent from the fact that nearly 50 crorepati candidates with the capacity to spend lavishly were in the fray.
Though apprehensions were being expressed over <g data-gr-id="119">unwillingness</g> of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad to transfer his caste vote to the JD(U) candidates, it was clearly visible on the day of the election. The Yadavs did not rally behind Nitish’s candidates. It was a tactical voting by the Yadavs. The election results point to the fact that the JD(U) candidates even lost in the Yadav dominated constituencies.
The most glaring has been the case of Patna. From here the RJD General Secretary, <g data-gr-id="128">Ritlal</g> Yadav, a history sheeter, who contested as an independent candidate defeated the JD(U) nominee. Intriguingly Lalu who had entered into seat sharing arrangement with Nitish for the <g data-gr-id="118">elections,</g> did not ask <g data-gr-id="129">Ritlal</g> to withdraw nor took any disciplinary action against him. The Yadavs voted for <g data-gr-id="130">Ritlal</g>. The JD(U) was a poor third in the race.
<g data-gr-id="120">Non transfer</g> of Yadav votes ensured the defeat of the JD(U) candidate, the Deputy Chairman of the Bihar Legislative Council, Salim Parvez in Siwan by a margin of 900 votes. This is the <g data-gr-id="121">strong hold</g> of Lalu. The BJP won from Lalu‘s bastion. Its candidate Sachidanand Rai defeated Parvez. All the sitting members from Lalu’s strongholds of Gopalganj, Siwan, and even Darbhanga were defeated as the Yadav votes could not be transferred to the JD(U)’s candidates. The voting pattern reveals that the JD(U) lost at least six seats due to this non-transfer of Yadav votes. Significantly the JD(U) managed to transfer its share of votes to the RJD candidates.
This phenomenon has been quite intriguing. The non-transfer of the Yadav votes underline two distinct developments, either Lalu has lost his grip on the Yadavs or he has some hidden agenda. No doubt in recent years, in fact since the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, Lalu’s support amongst his own caste men has been on <g data-gr-id="126">decline</g>. The two <g data-gr-id="134">sub castes</g>, <g data-gr-id="132">Majhraut</g> and <g data-gr-id="133">Krishnaut</g> who constitute nearly 6 <g data-gr-id="136">per cent</g> of the Yadav population in Bihar are comparatively <g data-gr-id="135">well off</g> have moved away from him. But even then Lalu still commands the trust of around 9 to 10 <g data-gr-id="137">per cent</g> of the rest of his caste men. This segment <g data-gr-id="123">not</g> responding to his call to strengthen the secular forces and defeat the communal forces have been quite intriguing.
Nevertheless, some recall Lalu’s remark on the day he accepted Nitish Kumar as the leader of the alliance. “I want to assure the secular forces and the people of India that in this battle of Bihar, I am ready to gulp everything. Hum <g data-gr-id="114"><g data-gr-id="103">har</g></g> <g data-gr-id="98">tarah</g> ka <g data-gr-id="99">ghoont</g> <g data-gr-id="100">peene</g> ko <g data-gr-id="101">taiyar</g> <g data-gr-id="102">hain</g>. Hum <g data-gr-id="113"><g data-gr-id="109">har</g></g> <g data-gr-id="104">tarah</g> ka <g data-gr-id="105">zehar</g> <g data-gr-id="106">peene</g> ko <g data-gr-id="107">taiyar</g> <g data-gr-id="108">hain</g>. (I am ready to drink all types of poison),” said the RJD boss where Kumar, friend-turned-foe-turned-friend, was declared the Chief Ministerial candidate of the RJD-JD(U) alliance. A strong and well-entrenched Nitish will certainly not augur <g data-gr-id="112">good</g> for the political future of Lalu. It is also a known fact that he seldom forgets and pardons his enemy.
Even though the RJD had entered into an alliance with the JD(U), both the leaders, Lalu and Nitish did not hold a single joint rally or public meeting. There was no concerted effort to send a strong message that the secular forces have come together to defeat the saffron brigade.
In 2009, the JD(U) had contested the Council election in alliance with BJP and it had 15 MLCs from Local Authorities Constituencies while now it has to be content with only 5 members from these constituencies. The RJD which had four MLCs in the 2009 maintained its tally this time too, showing that its support base among the electorate comprising elected representatives remains intact while the same could not be said about JD(U).
It may appear that Nitish’s loss is the BJP‘s gain. But there is no need for the BJP to be euphoric. No doubt it was a direct election, but the voters belonged to the exclusive class of people who have their own political and financial interests. Moreover, the size of the electorate in each constituency was around 2000-2500 and insufficient to gauge the mood of the people in general.
In sharp contrast to the BJP, its allies failed to perform better. Though Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP managed to win one seat, it lost in Hajipur, the stronghold of Paswan. Even the present <g data-gr-id="93">mahadalit</g> face of Bihar Jitan Ram Manjhi could not ensure the victory of his party candidate. The JD(U) won from Gaya the home of Manjhi. One thing was quite clear that <g data-gr-id="94">dalit</g> and <g data-gr-id="95">mahadalit</g> voters did not rally behind Manjhi.
For obvious reasons, Nitish did not give too much credence to the result and opted to downplay its impact. As the BJP celebrated, Nitish said, “This was not an election where the common people vote. It is more a candidate-centric election. It was a Council election. The candidate who mobilises the voters and representatives in a better manner eventually wins the elections If the BJP wants to be so happy about it, let them be. They anyway like to live in this fantasy world.”
Nevertheless BJP leadership is quite ebullient “It’s a very positive sign and points to the fact that the NDA will get a majority in the coming state elections. Bihar is tired of Nitish Kumar’s leadership and desperately needs a change”. No doubt the win would boost the mood of the rank and file. But to take it as the indicator of the public mood would be an act of naïveté.
In this election quite significantly the performance of Nitish and his claim of providing good governance were not on test. BJP must tread cautiously as its leaders are in the habit of rushing and committing blunder as its president has committed. He claimed that Modi was the first OBC Prime Minister of the country. But the fact is H D Deve Gowda was the first OBC Prime Minister. IPA