There has been numerous articles written about the results of the Bihar election and why the BJP failed so miserably. More than the failure of the Narendra Modi led BJP, the biggest surprise to non-Biharis and outsiders was the fact that the Laloo Prasad Yadav led RJD emerged as the single largest party in the Bihar assembly.
A party that has its roots in casteist and divisive politics emerged as the most popular party among the electorate despite having a deep trenched history in corruption and mismanagement. This should not come as a surprise and the fact that no one has alleged any illegal activities like booth capturing means only one thing – Laloo Prasad Yadav knows the pulse of his people more than anyone else in the country.
If we try and breakdown why this debacle happened, it can be boiled down to a few basic factors that the BJP got horribly wrong.
Never attack a son of the soil when an outsider
The primary mistake that BJP and Narendra Modi did in Bihar was to come into the state and start off on a campaign where they took pleasure in accusing the Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav of technically ensuring that Bihar is kept in the dark ages. Now which proud Bihari would tolerate a Gujrati or a person from any other state come on their turf and abuse their “sons”.
This was the first step where BJP faltered. If they had to indulge in a mudslinging fest, it should not have come from the prime minister of the country. I personally feel that the BJP would have benefitted more if they acknowledged the work of Nitish Kumar (who was an ally at one point) but questioned his intentions of partnering with corrupt elements like Laloo Prasad and the Congress.
Did not anticipate a common mandate among all other parties
One thing that all the other parties had in common was that they all had an “anti Modi” mandate. They were very open with this during the political rallies and made it a point to bring in his name in every speech. Many would argue that the common mandate was secularism, but I find it hard to buy. Especially since the entire premise of the RJD, JDU and the Congress was to garner the Muslim -Dalit vote bank. Less said about Asaduddin Owaisi the better.
The BJP did not anticipate this and the knee jerk reaction to this was to bring Modi into the fray. Now in a state that has a predominant rural population and below average income and literacy, Modi’s high flying stories of development, FDI’s etc would have had little impact when compared to accusations of foreign travel and expensive suits that the other parties played on.
Should have grown a local face in the lead up to the election
Many have said that not projecting a candidate for the Chief Ministers role is one of the main reasons for the swing of votes away from the BJP. It is true to a very large extent. The voters need to know who will be the ultimate recipient of their vote and who will be their leader post election. This is where the Mahagatbandhan scored heavily. From the start, Nitish Kumar was projected as the Chief Minister candidate and there was no confusion in that respect.
It is surprising that the BJP of all parties failed to recognize the importance of this when one of the main reasons they won the parliamentary elections was because Modi was the projected leader while the Congress failed to declare one. Another interesting strategy by the MGB was the clear demarcation of roles. While Nitish Kumar reached out to the educated upper middle class with his classy approach, Laloo took it upon himself to rally the rural population with his trademark rustic style.
Modi should have only had a “guest appearance” role
In any election campaign the prime campaigners should have been people with whom the electorate can directly relate to. Someone who can communicate with them in their language and use metaphors that they readily understand. The role of the party president or the prime minister should have been drafted in for “guest appearances” where the electorate would love to hear from them.
It was surprising that the local figure heads were hardly visible during the campaign trail and it was Modi speaking in his “sudh Hindi” to crowds that were predominantly Bhojpuri and Maithili speaking. Rahul Gandhi was doing the same but as far as I am concerned, he is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It was also shocking that a Bihari icon, Shatrughan Sinha was kept away from the campaign as well. Laloo on the other hand was at his best in managing to really connect with his audience by the way of his idiosyncrasies that the Bihari electorate immediately identified themselves with.
Fringe elements should have been put in check
This has always been an issue with the BJP. No matter how progressive, secular and inclusive the party wishes to project itself as, there always seems to be a few who have not received the memo. The BJP workers need to understand that the one thing the population of India wants is to know that they are safe.
This safety factor stretches beyond social, economic and religious safety. This includes a sense of confidence in development of the nation on all fronts; especially self development. Remarks like the ones that gave the MGB the fuel to bolster their attacks should be nipped in the bud. From where I see it, all opposition parties are now just waiting for a controversial statement and then pouncing on it. Trust me, those statements get far more media coverage than statements on the progress on the nation.
In short, let’s all admit it. The BJP were caught with their pants down and were forced to play the game that was set by the Nitish Kumar – Laloo Yadav team. It is not a total loss if the BJP accept that they failed and ensure that a similar situation does not occur in the next round of elections.