By Jai Prakash Ojha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
What went wrong for the BJP in the Bihar Assembly Elections 2015? A party that seemed well ahead of the Grand Alliance a month before the polls, came a poor second with 58 seats as compared to 178 for the Grand Alliance. More than the defeat, perhaps, it is the margin of the alliance victory that will rankle in the minds of NDA leaders and their supporters.
Of course, there was consolidation of the minorities against the NDA. But then, the counter polarization of Hindus was missing that went to the disadvantage of BJP. Moreover, Owaisi and NCP failed to cut substantially into alliance votes. The fact that Muslims did not overplay their identity also dented any possibility of reverse polarization of Hindus. Coming back to caste, even if RSS chief had not made the reservation statement, the Yadavs and the Kurmis would have still voted overwhelmingly for the alliance.
It would be erroneous to presume that it was the reactivation of the traditional Mandal alliance that upset the game plan of the NDA. Despite suffering a comprehensive electoral rout, the NDA secured 36 percent of the total votes which was 6 percent less than the alliance vote percentage of 42. When we add the population percentage of Kurmis, Yadavs and the Muslims in the state, it amounts to 35 – 36 percent while the upper castes are approximately 15 percent. Hence, the conclusion that the EBCs and the Dalit votes got divided between the two camps with more than 50 percent going to NDA can be safely made. It was basically the political support of the minorities and the upper OBCs like Yadavs and the Kurmis that propelled the JDU-Congress-RJD combine to power. It was sheer arithmetic rather than a visible forward–backward divide that turned the tables in favour of GA.
The Hindu right may have failed to solve the Mandal riddle, but at least, it should take solace from the fact that it secured 25 percent of the votes as against 18 for RJD, 16 for JDU and 7 for Congress. Even during the height of Modi wave in LS elections 2014, the NDA got 38 – 39 percent votes which was less than the combined 44 for GA. BJP emerged victorious due to the split in votes of the opposition. The entire opposition had united this time to stop the Modi juggernaut. If in the previous LS elections, JDU, Congress and RJD would have fought unitedly, BJP’s success would not have been so stupendous. The electoral reverses suffered by NDA is in no way a setback for BJP as it is for the first time that it has made its presence felt in this hot bed of Mandal politics and the Mandal configuration of yester-years is not that monolithic as it appears.
NDA did not have a tried and tested CM face as the GA had in the form of Nitish. The BJP state leaders were not at the forefront of the campaign which was hijacked by the Modi–Nitish battle. The BJP would do well to give up the high command culture of Congress and provide more autonomy to its regional units. Modi can’t win elections everywhere; overexposure of the PM led to the diminishing of Brand Modi.
Why BJP Lost pic.twitter.com/tkSK6eTQ55
— Gajendra Sharma (@insylabs) November 9, 2015
The negative campaigning also affected the party’s chances. Lalu may have been a loud mouth in the elections but Nitish maintained his restraint during election speeches giving the impression that he was all about issues and development. The projection of Modi as the face of electoral campaign also led to the blurring of local real issues as the elections became a referendum on the performance of Modi government at the centre. RJD was not taken to task for its monumental failures on governance and development. Too much carping on jungle raj led to second thoughts in the minds of those who benefited from the Lalu era. And mind you, they constitute more than 70 percent of the state population. Once you are in alliance with Nitish for more than 8 years, you can’t disown him overnight and start castigating him on his track record in governance; the public is smart enough to see through your designs.
#BiharResults prove again that large rallies and live TV coverage doesn’t mean actual votes in the ballot boxes.
— Tinu Cherian Abraham (@tinucherian) November 9, 2015
All said and done, this election should lead the BJP to serious introspection. It is not the Congress that is the main threat; the party faces a strong challenge from regional parties who have a strong caste/community cadre. The fringe elements of the Hindu right need to be reined in and the perception that we are becoming an intolerant society needs to be done away with. It must reach out to the opposition so as to get on with the task of governance and legislative business. Modi got a mandate in 2014 because he talked development, walked development and the people believed him. The one and a half year of his honeymoon with the electorate has ended and people are now judging him by their own parameters rather than taking his statements at face value.
‘Bihar Elections With Ojha’ is part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s special coverage of the Bihar 2015 elections.