Rajat Sharma

How Modi weaved his magic over Bihar voters

I can sum up in a single sentence: the people of India have once again reposed their confidence in Prime Minister Modi’s leadership.

akbThe people of Bihar have given their final verdict. Results of all byelections in other states have also come. One thing is crystal clear now. The BJP has scored magnificent wins in most of the states. I can sum up in a single sentence: the people of India have once again reposed their confidence in Prime Minister Modi’s leadership.

After the final official results for Bihar were declared by the Election Commission past midnight, it is NDA 125, Maha Gathbandhan 110, and the remaining eight seats to AIMIM and others.

Let us analyze. One, there is not an iota of doubt that the confidence of common voters of Bihar in Modi’s leadership has increased. Two, BJP has emerged as the second largest party in Bihar winning 74 seats (Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD has won 75 seats). In other words, from its earlier role as a ‘younger brother’ in Bihar NDA, BJP has now emerged as ‘Big Brother’ and will have a big say in the running of Bihar government. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) has shrunk badly. It barely managed to win 43 seats. This is its lowest figure in recent times and Nitish Kumar has suffered a big political setback.

Three, there was voting on caste and communal lines this time, but issues relating to development and the fear of return of ‘jungle raaj’ also mattered in the minds of voters, and BJP gained a lot because of this. Voters were unhappy with Nitish Kumar, but they had not forgotten and forgiven Lalu Yadav’s infamous ‘jungle raaj’, and his son Tejashwi failed to assure voters that there would be no return of ‘jungle raaj’.

Four, Chirag Paswan harmed both the RJD and JD(U), but the voters of Bihar made it quite clear that they do not want any confusion. Chirag was claiming Modi as his leader but he walked out of the state alliance while opposing Nitish Kumar’s return as CM.

Five, small timers like AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, Pappu Yadav and Upendra Kushwaha fought against Modi’s BJP, but they ended up giving Modi the advantage.

Six, Rahul Gandhi wanted to give his Congress party a strong footing in Bihar with Tejashwi Yadav’s help, but his party fared poorly, and with a worse strike rate, ended up causing loss to Tejashwi’s Maha Gathbandhan. Congress ultimately won only 19 seats.

Seven, the Left parties took full advantage of Tejashwi’s crowd pulling power and won 16 seats. Their strike rate was good. CPI(ML-Liberation) won 12 seats, CPI and CPI(M) won two seats each.

And lastly, all the exit polls and opinion polls proved wrong. They could not gauge the mood of voters, particularly women, correctly.

Narendra Modi emerged as the biggest game changer in Bihar elections. He knows the art of moving the direction of the wind that was blowing in Bihar’s political landscape. The entire nation had its attention fixed on Bihar, where the first assembly elections were being held in the era of Covid pandemic. The voters of Bihar are politically aware and active. Most of them were speaking about ‘change’.

On October 27, when Modi entered the scene, and started addressing rallies, there was change in the political wind that was blowing. Nobody had expected BJP to emerge as the second largest party and the wind was blowing in favour of Maha Gathbandhan. After Modi addressed rallies, the scene changed during the second and third phases. He addressed rallies in 12 districts covering 101 seats. The NDA won 59 out of these 101 seats.

While campaigning during the first phase, Modi clearly gauged the mood of the people, and in the second and third phases, he turned the tables on MGB. At a time when Tejashwi Yadav was promising a rosy picture of one million government jobs, Rahul was hitting out at Modi over thousands of migrant labourers walking on foot during lockdown, Chirag Paswan was creating confusion, it was Modi who reminded people about the dark days of Lalu’s ‘jungle raaj’ when kidnappings for ransom and collection of ‘rangdari’ (extortion) were rampant.

In his speeches, Modi repeatedly used phrases like ‘jungleraaj ka yuvraj’ (prince of jungle raaj) and ‘kidnapping ke king’. He went to the extent of saying ‘do do yuvraaj’ (two princes) indirectly referring to Tejashwi and Rahul campaigning together. The message was clear and it connected with the common voter. Modi reminded voters of how his government sent free foodgrains for poor families under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana during Covid lockdown period, and transferred Rs 500 each to the bank accounts of women. The women voters remembered this and they voted for Modi. Even Nitish Kumar’s party JD(U) took advantage of the mood of women voters.

Credit also goes to the new BJP president Jagat Prakash Nadda, who knew the ground situation in Bihar very well. Born in Patna, he studied in a school in Patna and graduated from Patna University. Nadda handled the party machine well, addressed 22 big meetings, took out road shows, and worked with backroom workers to ensure his party’s win. In Mithila region, he spoke in Maithili, and in other regions, he spoke in local dialects to win over the voters. Amit Shah, Shahnawaz Hussain, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Sushil Modi had tested Covid positive. It was left to Nadda to hold the fort.

Tejashwi Yadav slogged heavily, addressing as many as 19 rallies a day with the help of a chopper. His father, Lalu Yadav, was in jail, and many senior RJD leaders had left his party. Tejashwi had to take his own party leaders and alliance parties along, and tackle seasoned leaders like Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi.

I give full credit to Tejashwi for the good showing that his party did in the elections, despite his lack of experience. Tejashwi had set the political narrative from the beginning, by raising the issue of jobs for the jobless. He had promised a million government jobs, the day his government took over. Millions of youths in Bihar were attracted towards him, but it was Modi, the game changer, who turned the tables, by describing him as ‘Jungle raaj ke yuvraaj’.

For Chirag Paswan, I have this to say. Ambition is necessary in politics, but in order to achieve aims, one requires experience, patience and sagacity. Chirag is young, he is full of energy, speaks well and knows how to give a political fight, but he overplayed his card. He should have exercised patience. With Ramvilas Paswan passing away days before the elections, he could not benefit from his father’s vast political experience.

Chirag took a hasty decision by walking out of the Bihar NDA, hit out at Nitish Kumar, and the end result: his party LJP could win only a solitary seat. His action against Nitish reminds me of the Urdu couplet, “hum toh doobe hain sanam, tumhe bhi le doobengey”. His decision caused huge losses to NDA partners. Had Chirag stayed in NDA, the alliance could have easily notched up more than 150 seats. Had Chirag joined Tejashwi’s Maha Gathbandhan, the latter could have scored a clear majority and become the CM. But Chirag opted for ‘love Modi, hate Nitish’ line, and in the end, it was neither here, not there. Ignoring Chirag, Modi clearly announced at his rallies that Nitish would lead the NDA in Bihar.

About Congress, the less said the better. In recent shows of ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, I have shown clips of Rahul Gandhi’s speeches, which have no connect with the voters. Rahul does not even know the real issues that matter the most in Bihar. He is like a stuck gramophone record: always denouncing Modi, whether it is Bihar or Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh. It is his single theme in all his rallies. He fails to realize that the people of India love Modi and his leadership. Senior Congress leaders had advised Rahul not to target Modi too often as it could damage the party’s prospects.

It was left to Modi to remind voters in his rallies about one “yuvraaj” who joined hands with another “yuvraaj” (Akhilesh Yadav) in UP and brought the latter’s downfall. “The same yuvraaj is now going out with another yuvraaj (Tejashwi) in Bihar and will bring about his downfall too”, said Modi.

Asaduddin Owaisi acted as a speed breaker for Muslim voters diverting towards RJD and Congress. Owaisi’s party AIMIM, which was earlier confined to Hyderabad, first spread its wings in Maharashtra, winning two seats, and now, for the first time, it has won five assembly seats in Bihar. Owaisi is soon going to emerge as a serious challenger to those parties whose politics pivot around Muslim votes.

With the BJP winning 19 out of 28 assembly byelections in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has consolidated his hold. In UP, despite the Hathras incident highlighted by Rahul and Priyanka, the BJP won six out of seven seats. In Gujarat, it made a clean sweep of all eight seats. BJP’s win in Manipur and Telangana has surprised political pundits.

The common thread in all these wins in Modi’s rising popularity. The opposition parties are still searching for somebody who can try to stop Modi. West Bengal and Assam will be going to the polls next year and Modi has set his sights clear. The Bihar results should sound an ominous warning for Mamata Banerjee.

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