By Vikas Khanna
New Delhi, Sept. 10 (ANI): Will Bihar’s DNA match the might of BJP-led NDA? The high octane bout will be played in five rounds before the knock-out on November 8 when the winner will be announced. Caste will once again dominate the results as both the BJP and Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal (United) have lapped up as many parties which can court their respective communities. So, it is clear that both the groupings have little faith on the development plank on which they claim to have been wooing the electorate aggressively.
On the paper, the Nitish Kumar team looks formidable as against the NDA which is solely banking on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the last two assembly elections held in 2005 and 2010 respectively, the vote share of JD (U)-Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress combine has been much more than the total of BJP and Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan. While 23.1 percent of total votes polled were pocketed by others in the 2005 assembly elections, the vote-share of others in the 2010 assembly election was 27 percent.
However, both the alliances have netted some of OTHERS this time. In fact, both the JD(U) and the BJP have increased their vote share in the last assembly election at the expense of the RJD whose vote share dived by 4.7 percent. But the grand alliance cobbled up by Nitish and Lalu risks dissension as those who have been denied tickets may either join rival parties or stand as independents eating into its vote bank.
But a close study of the last year’s Lok Sabha elections shows that the BJP’s vote share increased by a whopping 16 percent from 13.9 percent in the 2009 parliamentary elections to 29.9 percent riding mainly on the huge popularity surge of Modi which swept him to power. In fact, Nitish Kumar-led JD (U) suffered the most as its vote share plunged by eight percent, leading to its complete annihilation as it managed to secure just two of the 40 seats.
But there is a difference in the voting pattern during Lok Sabha and assembly elections. While national issues dominate the parliamentary elections, the state elections are fought on local issues. The BJP’s success in the last Lok Sabha elections was due to a complete disapproval of the then ruling Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Not only did the Congress bite the dust, its allies were also roundly rejected by the people as the alliance was seen seeped deep in corruption. It was a vote against the then establishment and the BJP and its allies benefited largely out of it. But it remains to be seen whether the BJP-led alliance can replicate the success in the national elections this time.
Here in comes the question of DNA of Biharis or the pride of Bihar and its natives. Will the people of Bihar digest the humiliation and vote for the party which claims to change the face of Bihar if elected to power? There is no doubt that any state stands to benefit more if it votes for the same party which rules at the Centre.
Modi has been drawing huge crowds in comparison to the leaders of the Nitish-led alliance. And most of the people turning out at Modi’s rallies are the youth, who have ambitions but have been denied their rightful due by the previous governments. In Modi, they see a ray of hope. And they can swing the outcome of elections this time. What makes this 18-40 age group important is that it constitutes about 46 percent of the electorate. The BJP-led alliance is banking heavily on this group as it eyes win in the elections. The goodies that have been showered by Modi and the lofty development promises made during the successive election rallies are an exercise in this direction.
But 2015 is not 2014. A lot has changed since then. The BJP suffered its worst ever defeat in the Delhi elections at the hands of a rookie Aam Aadmi Party early this year. The economic reforms have virtually been stalled. If the nation is growing at around 7 percent, it is not due to the government efforts. Most of the country’s economic success has been due to the fall of oil prices in international markets. The country’s fuel import bill has been more than halved. The stocks, which had risen sharply in the expectation of good governance hopes, are almost back to the level of pre-Modi era. The Indian currency is heading south. Such is the state of economy that India catches fever when China sneezes! The prices of essential commodities and vegetables have started pinching the common man. The economic barometers certainly don’t fuel optimism in the very near future. Till a few months ago, Modi used to tom-tom about the country’s march to progress and indulge in self-pat, even crediting the “Achche Din” (Good Days) to him being the lucky mascot.
A lot is at stake for Modi and his party in the upcoming Bihar elections. If the BJP-led alliance wins the election, it will not only strengthen his hands to speed up the economic agenda, but will weaken the opposition led by the Congress, which has been blamed for stalling the parliamentary work. Bihar win may propel similar outcomes in the future state elections. But Bihar being Bihar, the caste calculus can’t be brushed aside. It’s a battle between development and caste. Which way the state votes will be decided only on the D-day, i. e., November 8. Till then, speculations galore! (ANI)