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JD(U) president Nitish Kumar takes oath as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh time- his fourth consecutive term during the swearing-in ceremony, at Raj Bhavan in Patna on Monday. (ANI Photo)
JD(U) president Nitish Kumar takes oath as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh time- his fourth consecutive term during the swearing-in ceremony, at Raj Bhavan in Patna on Monday. (ANI Photo)

Bihar mandate has lessons for all parties

  • The biggest challenge before the NDA will be to fulfil the promise of employment

There are always some truths hidden behind every glittering saga of electoral victory, or Vijayagatha. The history always has lessons for both the winner and the loser.

The NDA partners are happy that they conquered Bihar. The NDA also strengthened its hold in the bypolls in other states. But was it a victory stemming from some kind of public good, or did the NDA win only because it managed to beat the opposition in political equations and calculations, again? Imagine what would have been the result if Asaduddin Owaisi, Mayawati and Upendra Kushwaha had not formed the Grand Democratic Secular Front (GDSF) for the Bihar polls. This coalition suddenly emerged and won six seats, and also managed around 6% of the vote. No doubt, what they could corner was a result of anti-incumbency and, if this front was not there, all these votes were bound to go to the Mahagathbandhan (MGB) led by Tejashwi Yadav. As the close contest indicates, if only half the votes of GDSF had gone to the MGB, the outcome may have been different. Would the verdict then have been considered a mandate in favour of the MGB?

But polls are not a sum total of all the percentages. The BJP had won 53 seats in 2015 after securing 24.42% of the votes. This time, its vote share fell by almost 5 percentage points to 19.5%, but its strength in the assembly rose to 74. It was different for its partner, the JD(U), which got only 15.4% of the votes this time, compared to 16.83% in 2015, but lost 28 seats. If Chirag Paswan had not played spoilsport, it would have had at least 34 more seats. Then, it might have been seen as a wave in favour of Nitish Kumar.

Despite the victory, the NDA should be wary. Its vote share has declined in assembly polls held after the landslide 2019 victory. Therefore, it should be asked whether it’s a result of the popularity of brand Modi or just a miracle of political skill of the BJP? Now, look at Madhya Pradesh, where the biggest role played in the BJP’s victory in the bypolls was by Jyotiraditya Scindia, a popular youth leader who had recently joined the BJP from the Congress.

Though Tejashwi emerged as the biggest player in the Bihar polls, there is a befitting lesson for him as well. By assuring government jobs, he managed to mobilize large young crowds, but could not muster the trust of the voters. Compared to Nitish, who does not have any stain in such a long career, Tejashwi could not wash away the blot of ‘Jungle Raj’ under previous RJD governments. At least, the women of Bihar couldn’t believe him. Don’t forget women are now the most active voter base for every poll in Bihar. Nitish has worked hard for it in the past 15 years. Those girl students who became the first females of their families to ride a bicycle, provided by the Nitish government, are voters today. Since they are educated, they also participate in the decision-making process of their families.

Migrant labourers may have suffered a lot during the corona crisis, but it is also true that a number of welfare schemes of the central and state governments directly benefited them. The days of Indian politics are now gone, when elections were considered to be won only by some kind of wave. Now, whoever works, only he wins. This also applies to parties other than the NDA. The best examples of this are Arvind Kejriwal and Naveen Patnaik. The NDA could not uproot them despite a million attempts.

The RJD emerged as the single largest party in the Bihar election with 75 seats. This number is big enough to affect government policies. There will be many government committees, where the RJD and its allies might play an important role as a positive opposition, and it may surely win the trust of the people. Staying in the opposition has its advantages: you can raise your voice vigorously and then you have the right to start an agitation. These days, when parties in opposition rely more on allegations than agitation, there is a big opportunity for Tejashwi.

The biggest challenge before the NDA will be to fulfil the promise of employment. It is true that 450,000 government posts are lying vacant in Bihar. There should be an effort to fill these posts. After providing basic infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and water, the biggest challenge is to move beyond it.

An effective industrial policy will have to be chalked out, apart from rejuvenating old industries. It is a harsh reality that businessmen from other states do not want to invest in Bihar right now. There is a need to create a positive atmosphere, only then the promise of stopping migration can be fulfilled.

Nitish won the trust of women via prohibition, but alcohol consumption could not be reduced. On the one hand, it affected the economic situation of the poor, on the other, they had to face the wrath of stringent laws. The government should think about preventing persecution even while continuing prohibition.

Though the lessons are there for both, the one who learns from them will be the ultimate winner in the long run.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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