Grand Alliance creates history
Laloo’s RJD emerges largest single party
Congress gets a breather
Nitish to continue as CM
Wakeup call for BJP
New Delhi, November 8: The Bihar triumph of the Janata brothers-Lalu Prasad Yadav of RJD and Nitish Kumar of JD(U)-was sensational for more than one reasons. The Mahaghatbandhan (Grand Alliance) has registered a great victory over Narendra Modi who spearheaded the NDA campaign. Modi was the first prime minister in independent India who addressed almost 30 public meetings in a State Assembly elections. The meetings were dutifully telecasted live by almost all the national TV channels.
JD(U), RJD and the Congress alliance had successfully countered every argument put forward by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Be it cow advertisement, beaf eating or the question of reservations for Muslims, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav were quick to rebut the charges in their own natural, Bihari style. The way Modi-Shah duo dominated the electioneering and the manner in which other BJP leaders were sidelined was noticed by the people.
Even the bad reputation of Laloo Prasad Yadav did not deter the people from voting for the JD(U) combination. In fact, Laloo’s party emerged as the single largest in the new Assembly. It was a political rebirth for Laloo as well as to the Congress party in Bihar. Congress which had four seats in the outgoing Assembly bagged 27 seats out of the 41 it contested. This is the first occasion for the Congress party to rejoice since the 2014 drubbing. The credit for bringing Laloo and Nitish together goes to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Grand Alliance (GA), she created had proved to be a formidable force. The Congress was suitably rewarded.
There are three factors which clearly helped the GA to sweep the polls. One, the clean image of Nitish Kumar and the excellent work he did in infrastructure development, women empowerment and rural electrification. Two, the way Modi campaigned in the election and the language he chose to use against his opponents. He called Laloo’s rule as Jungle Raj. He told the people that if they vote for GA, Jungle Raj-3 would come into power. Modi called Nitish Kumar arrogant. It did not go down well with the people of Bihar who had come to respect their chief minister. Three, while the GA had announced that Nitish would continue as chief minister, the NDA did not name any chief ministerial candidate. Modi’s campaign did not work wherever there was a competent opponent. It worked only where the principal opposition was the Congress which was reeling under double incumbency factor. But when the BJP had to fight Aam Admi Party under Arvind Kejriwal, it was found wanting. In the same manner, Modi-Shah combination was no match to Nitish-Laloo duo in terms wit and strategy.
The attempts made by the BJP leadership to communalise the elections also did not work. Even on this plank, Nitish and Laloo were smart enough to counter Modi and Shah. The atmosphere of growing intolerance outside Bihar also went against the BJP. The intellectuals supporting the Modi dispensation made loose comments on the writers, film personalities and artists who returned their awards. They were called so-called intellectuals, their protest was described by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as manufactured. The English TV channels were too eager to be on the right side of the government. The lynching of a Muslim in Dadri in UP on suspicion that he consumed beef and labeling of film hero Shah Rukh Khan as Pakistani agent by Gorakhpur BJP MP Adityanath did not help the NDA candidates in Bihar.
The Bihar poll results have to be treated as a wakeup call by the BJP leadership. Modi can use this setback as an opportunity to control the irresponsible and irresistible elements in his party and also to refashion his cabinet. The likes of Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi have to be sternly asked to control their tongue. Modi and Amit Shah also should not allow, as an electoral tactics, the party colleagues to indulge in inflammatory speeches to arouse communal tensions and polarize the society on communal lines. They should stick to development line and truly work for it. The central cabinet badly needs a reshuffle. The HRD and Health portfolios have to be entrusted to able hands. Smriti Irani and Nadda are more suited to party positions than ministerial berths. There is a lack of talents in the cabinet. If there are no capable persons in the BJP, the leadership can take experts from outside and get them elected to Rajya Sabha. But the cabinet has to be improved. Modi can convert the defeat into an opportunity to strengthen his hands. A loss in Bihar would not make any difference to the authority of the prime minister. He continues to be the tallest leader in his party. He has to concentrate on governance and reduce the foreign trips. He has to use the Bihar experience in the forthcoming Assembly elections in UP, West Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Punjab. He should allow the local leaders to lead election campaign and address fewer meetings like other prime ministers like Indira Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao and AB Vajpayee did.
It may not be out of place to remind here that it was Laloo who stopped the Ayodhya Rath Yatra of Lal Krishna Advani 13 years ago and the Modi juggernaut in 2015.