Bihar, as befits the most political state in India, had a pot-boiler of an election, which was down to the wire even in the wee hours of the morning.
The first election post Covid-19 saw 15 hours of counting and allegations of cheating with the JDU and the BJP being declared the winners with 125 seats in the 243-member assembly. The biggest takeaway from the Bihar election though was the emergence of Tejaswi Yadav, 32, RJD chief as a mass leader from the next generation. Yadav gave a tough fight and was inches away from being chief minister in what would have been a dream political run. As the prolonged counting ended, Yadav had a perfect score - 75 seats out of 75 that the RJD contested. The RJD emerged as the single largest party in the Bihar Assembly. The only mistake Yadav made was to concede 70 seats to the Congress, which finally won 19, a miserable strike rate, which ensured that the alliance could not go all the way. The Congress party was clearly the weak link in the Mahagatbandhan.
While Kumar was the object of voter anger and his anti-incumbency chaffed his party, the JDU, which won just 43 seats, the BJP with 74 seats catapulted itself as the senior party in the alliance with Kumar. The BJP has reiterated that Kumar will continue as chief minister, but what a comedown for a man who once had lofty prime ministerial ambitions and was in competition with Narendra Modi. Kumar will be chief minister for a fourth time on the BJP’s sufferance. A senior BJP central leader who was managing the Bihar elections said to Gulf News: “Yeh Bharat kei pehle mukhya mantri hogein joh daily wages pei hain.” (He will be the first Indian chief minister to be on daily wages). Perhaps the migrants whose manifold suffering Kumar ignored will see the dark humour in his plight today. This Bihar election has clinically ended Kumar’s political career not with a bang but with a whimper.
The BJP has achieved all the goals it set out for itself. It has retained a big state and reduced its ally to a little brother in the relationship. If you see the bigger picture for the BJP, the role played by Chirag Paswan of the LJP becomes clear. Paswan imploded himself, but took the JDU down with him. He landed up with only one seat and soon the benefits of his friendship with the BJP will become clear.
The biggest loser in Bihar and in the other by elections held across India (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Telangana) was the Congress party. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Congress turncoat, took the Congress to the cleaners sweeping the Madhya Pradesh by-elections made necessary by his switch to the BJP. Out of 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh the BJP won 20. The BJP made a sweep in Uttar Pradesh winning six out seven seats, in Gujarat it won eight out of eight and Karnataka two out of two. If all this red ink does not prompt the Congress to the drawing board for a fresh blueprint then it really is curtains for the party. Priyanka Gandhi, who is the Congress’s designated leader in Uttar Pradesh, continues to be a helicopter politician who refuses to move to Lucknow. The impact she had had on the voters is apparent in the fact that Yogi Adityanath has not suffered any blow back from the horrific Hathras gang rape and murder.
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Clearly the Congress under the new leadership is unable to make any dent in India’s most politically significant state with 80 Lok Sabha seats. Polls in Uttar Pradesh are barely 15 months away and Priyanka Gandhi is likely to do a Bihar redux. The BJP claims that Bihar has set the “hawa” (wind) favouring it for the West Bengal elections which are coming up next. With its winning streak in Bihar and the by-elections shows that the BJP under Modi as the election winner is on a roll. When it has an opponent like Congress it pulverises them and when it comes up against a Tejaswi Yadav, the honours are divided.