Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Overkill of Bihar Elections by Mainstream Media

I am going to stick my neck out and say that the Bihar elections are being oversold by the media as a mandate on one government or the other. There are several reasons to it, and we shall examine them in some depth as follows.

1. Bihar has a footprint on national politics
Not anymore. With the creation of Jharkhand, the number of seats in the Lok Sabha from the state of Bihar came down from fifty six to forty. That makes West Bengal and Maharashtra more important (forty two and forty four respectively) in the national political scenario. Even in terms of Rajya Sabha, Bihar is no different from these states, and even if the state assembly elections are lost by the Bharatiya Janata Party in this state, they can make up for the Rajya Sabha numbers through smaller states that they seem set to sweep (Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir and Uttarakhand) within a short span of time.

2. Bihar will decide Narendra Modi's fate
Bihar already decided his fate in 2014. It does not reflect the national mood, nor does it have any impact on how the government behaves. There is an aspirational voter class that will look beyond caste and community, as it has been exposed to much more through its migrant experiences, and their vote in Bihar will certainly hit Rashtriya Janata Dal- All India Congress Committee-Janata Dal (United) hyperbole on caste, injustice and so called economic growth (entirely state expense driven). To add to their woes, fringe players targeting the same voter base have come together under the Samajwadi Alliance umbrella, causing much nervousness to the alliance. Keeping these things in mind, the real decision of fate is for Nitish Kumar, whose very political survival is at stake, as explained earlier on this blog. Even R Jagannathan has observed similar points in his opinion piece on Firstpost. Even if he loses, Modi remains in the center, whereas Nitish and Lalu have to go into political wilderness together, and failure is always an orphan.

3. Bills have been stalled due to Bihar elections, especially land acquistion
The problem with this argument is that land acqusition acts are as much a state subject as a matter that the center can deliberate on. As I had written earlier, it might be a political masterstroke, as the BJP can create a contiguous corridor of rapid growth forcing other states to introspect. One of these states is Bihar, where private investment has not been headed because of the lack of infrastructure. Being a land locked or mineral starved state does not hold gel when one sees Punjab or Rajasthan move ahead in comparison.Neither are these states that have asked for largesses from the Center in the name of adhikaar - rather, they have created investor friendly zones. Punjab is moving forward despite land being many times more expensive than Bihar and agriculture being a priority sector for water resource allocation. So the man who has to answer the most is the man who ruled with an iron fist as he wanted people to believe - Nitish Kumar.

4. Lalu Yadav is an X factor
Not in the least. A cursory glance on Twitterati's reminisces of Lalu Yadav's jungle raaj in Bihar are indicative enough of the revulsion any mention of him staging a comeback generates in even those who sympathize with Nitish Kumar. On top of that, Nitish Kumar has been cut to size by Lalu's public shenanigans, and it has severely diminished his public image, especially after the acrimonious exchanges of the past between the two of them, including as recent as this. Adding to that his inability to contest due to his convicted status, and it is clear that this is one political horse past his prime. Shenanigans of his kind are not popular with people anymore, who do not want cartoons dictating the discourse in the state.

Hence, the media needs to realize just how lost it is on this particular election and its impact on the national scene. The hyperbole surrounding their shrill debates on the same need to be replaced with some sane coverage of important issues. The nation is not interested in Sheena Bora or Lalu's comeback, but it could do with asking why the aspirations of Bihar's youth continue to remain unaddressed.

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