Key Takeaways from Bihar's Elections 2015

In Alliance We Won _ Nitish Hugging Laloo (Courtesy: The Hindu)
The verdict is out, and the combine of Laloo Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and the All India Congress Committee of Rahul Gandhi hanging by the coattails of the other two has swept across Bihar. There are several interesting observations that need to be made in order to understand the trend that was with their alliance against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition in what was perceived to be a tight race. It is very interesting to note that democracy, equality and liberty are nebulous terms, and their vagueness can be seen in the oddity of the alliances and the outcome of the results. As Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn points out in his book Liberty or Equality, the premise of what constitutes the sense of freedom and the freedom to choose are not necessarily concomitant, and the ideas are certainly at variance as exhibited in the result. That democracy can be imperfect is evident in the fact that RJD is the single largest party in the Bihar legislative assembly, despite all its annals soaked in blood, violence and criminality of the past. A clean slate is what they presumed to start with, but signs emerging within hours from the ground are showing that the old festers may have just opened up if they are any indicators. Nevertheless, the people have chosen. Following key takeaways are however important from this election.

1. The election shows the BJP's inability to increase its voteshare from beyond pre-2014 elections. One must strongly observe how the vote for the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 was not about BJP or its allies; rather it was about putting Narendra Modi in 7 Race Course Road. A comparison from the 2010 position would show that numerically no one moved anywhere. This election eventually became about the others adding up to total more than one side. In states where all key players seem to be hovering around a particular vote share number, the inability to strike harder will hit the BJP. Uttar Pradesh in 2017 will also be an uphill task, even if Mayawati and Mulayam Singh do not ally as was the case in Bihar.

2. Nitish Kumar despite the win of the alliance stands a diminished man. The real victor of this state assembly is Laloo Prasad Yadav. As I had observed earlier, Nitish Kumar's stature is much reduced despite the results, as he compromised on his own principles. However, the dichotomy of how the same people who voted for him voting earlier for the BJP led alliance will certainly not be lost on either Nitish or Laloo. Something similar happened in Delhi earlier this year, and if there were Lok Sabha elections tomorrow we might see the same again, as evidenced in this NDTV coverage of the elections.

3. Since Laloo Prasad is the real winner of Bihar. He will extract his pound of flesh, and would certainly not have forgotten how Nitish Kumar backstabbed him in 1993. The oddity of the combine that has won is clearly not lost on anyone. I would give this government just upto 2019 at best, when a PM-ship carrot shall be dangled before Nitish Kumar to unseat him and place one of Prasad's sons instead. The palace coup is just around the corner for Nitish, and he shall be caught unawares much like King Lear.

4. The BJP needs to perform economically. Period. Getting involved in unnecessary discourse politics when the people are impatient for reforms and its impacts is just not what the doctor has ordered. When Arun Shourie had criticized them with the analogy Congress scaled+cow=BJP, the party was quick to brush them off as the angst of a frustrated man. The fact remains that he had rightly stated that the government needs to unleash reforms and not be subject to state elections, especially when much of what is needed to set India right DO NOT need any Parliamentary action whatsoever. Undertaking reforms only after a defeat is no different than throwing a punch in a bar fight after you got pummelled, and people are certainly frustrated with the party's clumsy, slow, stalling efforts to reform. Reform CANNOT be a marathon in a country that aspires for bullet trains.

5. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are directly responsible for the defeat. Engaging in a street fight each time does not make sense. Paucity of campaigners is not an excuse for indulging in crass exchanges and negative campaigning. The inability to distinguish their product from what Nitish Kumar was selling (to use marketing language)  proved very costly. Packages are a joke, and influence nobody whatsoever. Instead, efforts to explain how private investment and jobs shall be brought into Bihar could have perhaps created an alternate vision for an aspirational Bihar voter. Pitting that against a state-led development agenda belonging to a socialist mindset could have made a difference. That is what won them in other states.

6. Congress party at best managed to hang by the coattails of Laloo Prasad's victory. Despite the sharp rise in seats, the party managed to still be only the fourth largest in the state. That says much about the Congress' inability to use a wave in its favor as it says about Rahul Gandhi's weird strategy. Parachuting in and out certainly did nothing to take up beyond the 21 seat mark, which was around 22 prior to 2005.

Congratulations to the victors. It is your day today.


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