The results of the Bihar elections would have come as no surprise, given the caste arithemtic but also the rising disillusionment with Narendra Modi and the increasing communal temperature. It also signals the end of the Modi wave and could be his Stalingrad, the battle he threw everything into only to suffer an ignominous defeat.
Let’s look at the results closely. In India, including Bihar, a large number of people vote on elections on caste and religious lines. The exception is when there is a wave.
The BJP had won the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a Modi wave. This wave emerged due to three main reasons :
- Modi’s magic slogan of ‘vikas’ (development), which was perceived as the creation of millions of jobs. The Indian youth, whose voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1988, and who are facing a dreadful future of unemployment (10 million youth enter into the job market in India every year, but only half a million jobs are created in the organised sector of the economy), voted en masse for Modi, cutting through caste and religious lines, attracted by the promise of jobs for all of them.
- In India unfortunately, the communal virus is still deeply entrenched in society. Many Hindus believe that there has been too much ‘Muslim appeasement’, and so voted for Modi to put Muslims in their place on an all India basis.
- People were simply disgusted with the Congress and the UPA, under whose rule scam followed scam regularly.
Where are the jobs?
Now, a year and a half later, the Modi wave has largely dissipated, except among the hardcore, mainly upper caste Hindu sections. There are no jobs despite the victory of the BJP. Jobs cannot be created by slogans. They are created when the economy rapidly expands; the Indian economy is practically stagnant. So the youth who were expecting jobs have realised they were befooled and taken for a ride.
The hope that significant foreign investment would come into India and create jobs has proved to be illusory. Jim Rogers, a leading American investor has withdrawn his investments in India, as widely reported, saying that one cannot invest in mere hope. Who will invest or set up factories in India when in most parts there is lack of infrastructure and massive corruption, despite Modi’s tall claim ‘Na khaoonga na khane doonga’.
On the other hand, prices of essential foodstuffs like dal and onions have gone through the roof. This means that the real incomes of most people in India have gone down drastically.
The communal card was sought to be played, as witnessed in incidents such as the lynching in Dadri, and beef politics, but it did not have much of an effect. Food and jobs are more important to people than religion or indeed talk of Digital India and Moid’s high profile visits to foreign countries.
Voting in Bihar followed the traditional pattern of caste and religion, and to any astute observer, the results were foregone.
As per the 2011 Census of India, Scheduled Castes constitute 16% of Bihar’s 104 million population. The census identified 21 of 23 Dalit sub-castes as Mahadalits. The Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) constitute around 1.3% of Bihar’s population. The state’s tribals include Gond, Santhal and Tharu communities. The Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) are also sometimes referred to as Most Backward Class(MBCs). There are 130-odd EBC castes in Bihar.
While we await a detailed analysis of the results, it appears that Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav would have got the support of Yadavs and Kurmis constituting 19% and Muslims who are feeling very insecure after the sangh parivar’s campaigns of love jihad, ghar wapsi, the speeches of Adityanath, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and incidents like in Muzaffarnagar, Ballabhgarh, and the latest one at Dadri.
A section of the other backward castes, say 8-10%, would have also voted for the alliance, as Lalu has successfully described it as a fight between the backwards and the forward castes. This could account for the performance of the Mahagathbandhan (the Grand Alliance.) The NDA got its support from the upper castes, and a section of EBCs, and a section of the Dalits, because of the presence of Ram Vilas Paswan, Jitan Manjhi and Upendra Kushwaha in the BJP-led coalition.
In the Indian system of democracy, seats in elections depend not on percentage share of votes but on being first past the post. With 31% votes the BJP got an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. Now the tables have turned.