If Narendra Modi has turned around BJP fortunes in the national polls and reduced the Congress to a historic low, in Bihar, the rise of Modi has achieved an arguably more difficult task. He has dissolved the rigid and watertight caste barrier, the basis of vote pattern in the state so far.
Even when Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), part of the NDA then, won 32 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it was attributed to the “social combination” factor. This time Kumar lost ground, but it was expected in the wake of rising popularity of an aggressive campaign by Modi, set to be anointed the PM.
The man who has been jolted is RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who was expected to gain some political relevance in the aftermath of his conviction in a fodder scam case. He banked on his old Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) consolidation and a good chunk of EBCs but came a cropper with his party barely managing to retain the last election’s tally. What is even more disappointing for him is that both his wife and former CM Rabri Devi and daughter Misa Bharti lost from Saran and Patliputra, respectively.
Muslims and Yadavs account for about 29 per cent of Bihar’s population and during campaigning as Prasad went about wooing this combination, there was a heavy turnout at his rallies which proved deceptive. The results suggest that there may have been a strong counter-polarisation against this visible M-Y consolidation. In fact, Lalu always ducked questions on which other caste group was supporting him. As the results showed, RJD-Congress could do well in only those seats where there are substantial Muslim or Yadav voters.
The BJP, which was seen as a party getting votes from upper castes and OBC baniyas, seems to have reached out to all sections of society this time. Bihar BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said: “We always knew that the party has not done well in Seemanchal where we lost seats like Araria and Purnea. We reckoned the NDA would get 25-30 seats. Lalu Prasad got overconfident because of the success in Seemanchal but Modi factor worked everywhere.”
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and the JD(U) got little over 38 per cent votes. The data of this election would show BJP had done well with help of small partners like the LJP and the RLSP.
The BJP got votes from a large part of EBCs and youths across caste lines and some chunk of Yadav voters.
Prasad, who looked bitter in face of party’s poor show, said: “I cannot congratulate Modi. How can I congratulate him? Rather, I am still cautioning the country against Modi”.
Kumar appeared to have gone into an introspective mode much before the results were announced. He took to social networking site to say: “I respect mandate of people. Jay Bihar, Jay Bharat”.
JD (U) Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar told The Indian Express: “We respect the mandate. We have to accept it gracefully and work towards re-building the party.”