By Amit Kumar:Â
Any serious political writing on general election 2014 cannot be complete without a thorough analysis of Bihar’s political dynamics. The state sends 40 MPs to the Lok sabha and hence, it is important for all the parties to create an atmosphere in which they would gain the maximum. The bitter political rivalry between the friend turned foes (JD-U and BJP) has opened up numerous possibilities in the states polity, unlike what is being predicted by the big media houses, “Pre-poll surveys show that BJP-LJP alliance is most likely to sweep the state, a turnaround from what was predicted for JD(U) two months ago(1).” However, unofficial sources suggest that RJD-Congress combine will be the biggest beneficiary in a triangular contest. BJP-LJP combine will benefit nominally from this.
LJP joining NDA came as a surprise to most, but it was a master stroke from Ramvilas Paswan. During the NDA rule in Bihar, his party LJP was marginalized and reduced to one or two pockets of influence. Given the fact that he would not have got a better deal from RJD-Congress, he switched over to NDA. His primary focus is not the general elections but state assembly elections due next year, where he would try and revive his party’s prospect which has become almost a non-entity in the state politics.
The alliance between RJD and Congress is a classic example of an unwilling alliance. Congress under the new leadership of Rahul Gandhi did not intend to project an image, of one being soft as far as corruption is concerned. But given the kind of anti-incumbency Congress is facing, it would have been politically foolish and electorally suicidal for Congress to choose Nitish over Lalu. Nitish would have tried to extract maximum from this alliance to cement his position further in the state. Lalu, on the other, cornered in the state and national politics would be a safe bet, easy to negotiate with. It seems that the RJD-Congress alliance won’t last long and might not be extended after this election (read next year state assembly election).
Coming to BJP, the wave that is being talked about in the media so vociferously, in reality does not exist. Instead of a wave, there is a divide between pro-modi and anti-modi. A wave does not result in a divide and election results will give a clear picture of the same. If we consider the kind of polarization that is taking place, half a dozen sitting MPs of BJP are not sure whether they will retain their seats or not. But as usual the dominant mainstream media never really considers reporting such stories as their reach is limited to the urban areas and TV studios. A wave would have ensured an easy sail for most BJP candidates but that’s not happening. BJP will benefit nominally as the upper caste voters are rallying behind BJP. “As caste dynamics especially in connection with elections go, Yadavs are unlikely to vote for the JDU as for them Nitish Kumar is responsible for Lalu’s decimation. While forwards castes were not so antithetical to JDU but with Nitish Kumar parting ways with the BJP, there is a clear division now. The BJP has managed to retain its core vote bank of forward castes and is also hopeful of getting Yadav votes in many seats where the RJD is weak (2).”
The Nitish Kumar led JD-U is facing its toughest electoral battle in recent times and he himself has admitted in many interviews that the party might suffer some reverses in the general election. The media and poll pundits started writing obituaries for the JD-U, just like they were busy writing RJD off two months ago. The JD-U might have pulled it off in constituencies where women have outnumbered men in voting percentages as women tend to vote for Nitish Kumar in the recent times because of his policies that have empowered them(3). The Nitish Kumar led government might not have done everything it promised, but Bihar has for sure come a long way from the legacy that was handed over to him a decade back. He insists that it will not be as bad as being projected by the media.
In an attempt to boost TRPs, they have forgotten the role media is supposed to play in a democracy. News stories which do not seem to have any connection with the ground reality are being fed on a daily basis. Development is not the key theme like in earlier elections and right caste combination will play a decisive role in this election, too. The biggest issue with pre-poll surveys is that it’s highly urban centric in nature. Consider the fact that over 70% of Indian electorate is in the villages, the views that get reflected in any opinion poll or pre poll survey reflects the views of urban middle class India. Given the fact that no party is sure of its performance, apart from the regular rhetoric about thumping victory, this election hopefully will prove studio based poll analysts wrong, just like it did in 2004 and more recently in 2009 general elections. Those busy writing obituaries will be forced to eat their words after the results will be out on 16th may, 2014. If we are to correct this evergreen anomaly in our survey methods, we must take into account the vast majority of India (rural India) silently writing the India story without any OB vans and away from the media glare.