During the election campaign for the Bihar Vidhan Sabha (2015), two prominent fears were expressed against the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance. They seemed to be coming true within weeks of the formation of the Mahagathbandhan government. The first was that the capitulation of Nitish Kumar to Lalu Yadav would weaken his government and re-introduce lawlessness as was horribly experienced in the 90’s. The second was that the long-time foes Nitish and Lalu, or their surrogates, would start bickering right after they were able to form the government together. In both cases, Bihar would suffer immensely.
When criticized for the US setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, Donald Rumsfeld, the former Defense Secretary, once angrily burst out: “You go to war with the army you have -- not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist ideologue of both Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar, had famously said: “A live nation doesn’t wait for five years.” What he meant was that people had the right to revolt and throw out the government for good reasons without waiting for its five-year term to be over.
In the late 1960’s when I was appearing for the Pre-University Exam at Chandradhari Mithila College (Darbhanga), in the corner of a sprawling hall, Kameshwar Bhavan, was also another examinee, Ghanshyam Jha, son of Radhanandan Jha, an influential Congress politician at that time who later became speaker of the Bihar Legislative Assembly.
Seated in the opposition, the BJP should now do serious introspection and start rebuilding in Bihar. Start with the candidates. The BJP reportedly imposed candidates from the top. Campaigners, including the RSS 'pracharaks' fanned out in the villages much before the election days, complained that the BJP candidates fielded were very weak. The selection of candidates should have followed a process that took the local voters and leadership into consideration.
"Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan," observed John F. Kennedy. The BJP had the winning duopoly of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah through several winning state elections. Everyone seemed to hail and cheer the leader and the master strategist.
A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman worries about the next generation, we have learnt in history. During this protracted and highly charged election season in Bihar, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, must rise to the level of a statesman and send the message of communal harmony to the Seemanchal area that votes in the fifth and final phase of polling on November 5. That will be a message to the world too.
As the two major coalitions in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha election contest continue to prophesy a clear victory for themselves, we will know in a week the people’s verdict. In the meantime, predictably, the electoral battle has hinged broadly on three factors: (a) How the Mahadalits and the Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) have voted? (b) Which way the majority of women has tilted? and (c) Whether or not the Prime Minister has retained his appeal to the younger aspirational generation.
On Monday, October 19, in a general election, the Canadian voters threw out Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party Prime Minister for two terms (nine years). According to the majority of Canadians, Stephen Harper, going into his second term, had become very overbearing. He enforced his conservative policies, slashed down social services programs, favored wealthy to become more rich, denied environmental problems and suppressed dissent not only from the academic or scientific community but also within his own party.
"All politics is local," Tip O'Neill, the former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, is reputed to have once observed.
In the context of the ongoing Bihar Vidhan Sabha election also, the politics depends on what the pulls and pressures are in each constituency. From a distance, it’s difficult to gauge the public mood and therefore the voting trend. Even the reporters on the ground send mixed signals.
In the closing hours of the campaign, it seems both sides (the NDA and the Grand Alliance) are desperately engaged in propaganda war. There are very little to educate and more to arouse the voters.
In less than a week Bihar embarks upon electing its Vidhan Sabha legislators who will be the custodians of the state’s fate for the next five years. The Yadavs, with their 14% share in the electorate, are the most coveted constituency for any political party or alliance. Together with the Muslims, it is claimed; they can again write the horoscope of Bihar. Politicians and pundits all emphasize the intrinsic socio-political strength of this caste that belongs to the Other Backward Caste (OBCs) category.
"May you live in interesting times," is widely attributed to a Chinese curse. But, this is so deliciously true in the case of many of us who are watching simultaneously elections in progress in three places over two continents: Bihar (in the Indian subcontinent), Canada and the United States (in North America).