By Vikas Khanna
New Delhi, Nov. 8 (ANI): Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav may be down, but he is certainly not out as he proved his political acumen once again. Lalu was jeered for entering into an alliance with long-time foe Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United) after the latter ended his honeymoon with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.
Many thought that Lalu would not only drown but would take Kumar along with him. Political pundits then called the JD (U)-RJD alliance a political hara-kiri. But Lalu has proved all of them wrong. Not only has the alliance bounced back to resounding victory, Lalu has emerged as the biggest winner, to the surprise of all. None had imagined that the BJP, which had run-away success in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when it along with its alliance partners bagged 31 of the 40 seats, would slip to third position. This is the second humiliating defeat in a row for the BJP after the rookie Aam Aadmi Party decimated the Hindu party in the Delhi elections. Bihar election results prove that Lalu is an infallible politician.
The BJP troika of Modi, Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, who supervised the minutest of the details of elections, has been left licking the wounds caused by the grand alliance. It will take months before the wounds will be healed. The party had pumped in money and flew down almost half of the cabinet colleagues of Modi to Bihar in a desperate bid to win the election. But the party managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of what once appeared a possible victory. The huge crowds that Modi was attracting during his two-plus rallies everyday gave a false sense of the party’s growing popularity. The BJP was completely outwitted! The people of Bihar came to his rallies, listened to him, but rebuffed him at the hustings in the end. They were not ready to compromise with Bihar’s DNA which was humiliated by none other than Modi himself.
The BJP was also undone by its parent ideologue, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose chief Mohan Bhagwat only helped in creating a sense of fear and insecurity among the people of the state over the issue of reservation. Though BJP was quick to deny his comment as not the official policy of the BJP and maintained that the party favoured reservation for the poor and the backwards, the damage had already been done. This was the constituency which Lalu and Nitish had meticulously nurtured over the years through the reservation policy. Modi’s calculations also went awry when he tried to create confusion among the downtrodden by remarking that Nitish was trying to rob them of five percent quota and giving it to a “particular community” referring to Muslims.
The BJP, perhaps, committed the biggest mistake when it changed the discourse of the election campaign, forfeiting the development plank on which it had pledged to fight the election. In fact, the party could have reaped rich political dividends had it stuck to its original agenda. That was working well with the masses, who thought that the same governments at the Centre and in Patna would bring about positive change and speed up development in the state.
Modi himself led from the front and launched an all-out personal attack against his rivals. Calling them by names and poking fun at them became Modi’s pet rhetoric during his 30-plus rallies in the last few days, again unprecedented for state elections. But his gimmicks backfired. Modi antagonized the voters as he went about scorning his rivals by heaping muck on them. In the end, he is left with an egg on his face.
The issues of beef controversy and cow slaughter were non-issues and had nothing to do with the Bihar elections. But the party thought it otherwise. In the past, the BJP had gained politically by polarizing the society. But it was grossly mistaken this time. Bihar is not Gujarat. Even when the chorus against the rising incidents of religious intolerance was growing louder, his colleagues and saffron-clad netas kept on spewing venom with Modi maintaining a mysteriously studied silence.
One hopes that the BJP will realize that the hate politics and communal agendas have no place in a country where people want an environment of peace, necessary for the economic growth. The government has been facing flak from both within and outside the country over the recent incidents of religious intolerance. Modi will do well to rein in the fringe elements in his party if he is really interested in taking the country forward.
PS: This was the worst gift the BJP could have presented to veteran leader Lal Krishna Advani on his birthday.
(Vikas Khanna is a senior journalist. The views expressed in this article are his own.) (ANI)