Lalu-Nitish chemistry foils Modi-Shah arithmetic

By Vikas Khanna

New Delhi, Nov. 10 (ANI): When enemies become friends, they become a formidable force. History is witness to it. The decision of Indira Gandhi to impose emergency forced opposition forces to join hands, leading to her humiliating defeat. This is one of many examples to prove a point.

Therefore, when Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar decided to bury the hatchet to stop the juggernaut of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they became a powerful combo. The decision of the Congress to join the bandwagon further consolidated the “maha gathbandhan”. The coalition of powerful Yadavs, Muslims and Kurmis which together accounted for about 35 percent of Bihar’s population along with the support of the Congress Party was an invincible grouping.

Though the BJP and its constituents tried to run down the union of the two powerful foes, the coalition grew in strength as anti-grand alliance voices became shriller. Many thought that Nitish had written his political obituary by colluding with Lalu, who had become an embodiment of corruption. Even analysts in Bihar said that Nitish had staked his clean reputation by compromising with Lalu. But the duo was sure about their turf. They knew that their support base was intact.

Notwithstanding the massive defeat of Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and the Congress Party in the 2014 parliamentary elections at the hands of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the three parties, who fought separately then, polled 45.3 percent of the total votes. The numbers were huge. The need was to preserve the respective support base and not let it disintegrate. And the three parties complemented each other perfectly. Not only did they win the support of their core group for themselves, they also ensured that their vote share got transferred to their alliance partners.

The negative campaigning by Modi only worked to the advantage of the grand alliance. Modi committed a cardinal crime by ditching the development pitch which was resonating well with the masses in the beginning. Once Modi digressed from the development agenda, on which he had assiduously built his image, he started losing the plot. As Modi viciously targeted Lalu and Nitish personally, he only alienated the people of Bihar from himself. For, the attacks were seen as an affront to Bihar and Biharis. This only fuelled people’s anger which got reflected in the way they voted. It was an angry vote.

It is not as if the BJP was not pandering to lower castes besides its core constituents of upper caste Hindus and Vaishyas. It courted Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi in the hope of getting the support of Koeri and Dalits besides Paswans. But sadly all the three alliance partners failed to get the votes of their communities. Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party with a vote share of 4.8 percent, Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party’s 2.6 percent and Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha with 2.3 percent failed to contribute to the kitty of NDA as the three parties got only five seats out of the 83 seats on which they contested. The BJP too fared badly winning one-third of the seats (53 out of 160) compared to its stupendous performance in the last assembly elections when it bagged 91 seats out of 102 on which it contested. But that was a different story. The BJP then had Nitish in its fold. In contrast, the communities represented by Nitish Kumar’s allies aggressively supported the candidates of grand alliance.

The BJP’s strategy not to project its chief ministerial candidate and depend entirely on the charisma of Modi also caused the NDA’s rout. The people of Bihar were nonplussed as to who would be their chief minister if the NDA won. The whirlwind campaigning by Modi, the first in the history of an Indian state election by any prime minister, only went against him. The NDA lost 14 of the 26 seats where Modi addressed. In contrast, Congress president Sonia Gandhi addressed only four constituencies and she secured victory for all her four candidates. Modi’s strike rate was 54 percent compared to 100 percent of Sonia. Interestingly, the Congress, which finished fourth, had a better performance than the BJP. The Congress won 27 seats out of 41 on which it contested, whereas the BJP secured win in only 53 seats out of 160. In percentage terms, the Congress had a winning strike rate of 65.85 in comparison to BJP’s 33.13. What can one make out of it? The Modi magic is on the wane.

The so-called charisma of Modi was smashed to smithereens in the Delhi assembly elections when his party could secure just three out of the 70 seats. And it got battered further in Bihar. There is an old saying that one should not keep all its eggs in one basket. The BJP reposed faith in its only star campaigner in Modi. The result is before all to see.

[Vikas Khanna is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal] (ANI)

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