Bihar has Turned Out to Be Modi’s Stalingrad

Bhakhtiyarpur: Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar shows his inked finger after casting vote during third phase of Bihar assembly elections, in Bhakhtiyarpur, in Bihar on Wednesday. PTI Photo(PTI10_28_2015_000286B)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shows his inked finger after casting his vote during the third phase of the Bihar assembly elections in Bhakhtiyarpur. Credit: PTI

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 :

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Jim Rogers, a leading American investor has withdrawn his investments in India, as widely reported, saying that one cannot invest in mere hope.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.

The pattern of the Bihar elections will be followed in most state elections now, and therefore one can safely predict that the BJP will now be constantly on the retreat, like the German army after Stalingrad.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India

Categories: Politics

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  • ashok759

    The constructive takeaway from Bihar would be to now have a laser like focus on the economy, viewed through the prism of job creation, even if it is in the informal sector, and placing social harmony on a pedestal.

  • anandashtekar

    Since 2014 the rein of mediocrity is prevalent right from the top to bottom in govt and various institutions hence no change is seen and PM is complacent with his achievements which is also a mediocrity. How can expect promised results?

  • rohit g chandavarker

    The battle for Bihar was lost but hopefully not the war. The doomsdayers are actively sharpening their knives & its open season of Modi BJP bashing. The drubbing may chasten Modi & persuade him to revert back to the winning plank of 2014, development. A concerted effort to revitalise the economy must be undertaken & demonstrable action is required. The efforts towards cobbling up a united opposition will gather speed but past history has shown the brittle nature of such alliances. Actually there seems to be no credible national opposition presently to unseat Modi. Hence Modi would do well to justify the confidence reposed in him in 2014 by living up to the promises he made then. Its not too late to change course. However care must be taken to discard ego & arrogance. The statesman qualities in a PM will have to come to the fore. Also state level leaders will have to be nurtured. Decentralized structure will prove beneficial.