Burying the ghost of Bihar

Assembly poll results prove voter is focused on development, not dynasty or caste and creed math

Written by Surjit S Bhalla | Published:May 21, 2016 12:01 am
Assembly elections 2016, 2016 assembly elections, congress in Assam, Assam assembly elections, BJP assembly elections 2016, west bengal assembly elections 2016, assembly elections result 2016, 2016 elections As per my forecast, in all the four states, the Congress lost, most horribly in Assam.

In my previous article (‘End of the Road  for Congress?’, The Indian Express, May 16), I had speculated that the results of the assembly elections would indicate that any association with the Congress party was the political equivalent of the kiss of death.

As per my forecast, in all the four states,  the Congress lost, most horribly in Assam. The assumption that Muslims (34 per cent of the population) would not, cannot, should not vote for the BJP or parties associated with it, was meant to ensure the BJP’s defeat. This did not happen. Instead, the BJP won by a landslide.

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Clearly, the math did not work. How did the BJP win Assam, almost on its own? What is very likely to have happened is that an unexpectedly large fraction of Muslims (around 15 to 25 per cent) voted for the BJP alliance. Similarly, what was the likely basis for Mamata Banerjee’s landslide victory in West Bengal?

Some important background reference points. First, these state elections were the first since 2014 not preceded by any commotion, etc about an intolerant and communal BJP at the Centre. For the last two years, two forces have combined to defeat, or at least unsettle, the BJP in its electoral campaigns. First, the Tea Party elements (those who believe in beef ban politics, ghar wapsi, love jihad, moral censorship, etc) within the BJP have been only too eager to claim their 15 minutes of infamy by making rabid statements. The intolerant statements were amplified by an over-eager Congress party, which was always willing to capitalise by creating their own commotion, for instance, award wapsi. But all of this would have counted for nought if the opinion-making English press did not join in with full gusto and exaggeration. The net result — intolerance and communal tensions peaked during the voting in all post-2014 elections, and fell to zero the minute the voting was over. So bizarre and coincidental that only a conspiracy theory can help explain these cosmic happenings.

But it didn’t happen in 2016. Why not? First, it appears that the Tea Party perpetrators were told, in no uncertain terms, by the BJP to either shut up or ship out. They chose the option of shutting up. But why would the Congress let go of a survival, if not winning, formula? They didn’t — they tried, tried and failed. Recall that in the midst of the election season, with Tea Party elements silent, the Congress party floated its own Tea Party member — Ghulam Nabi Azad, a Rajya Sabha Muslim Congress leader, who stated that he did not see any difference between the Hindu RSS and the dreaded Muslim IS. Translating, how do you think the Congress would react if a responsible senior BJP leader said that he saw no difference between Indira Gandhi and Hitler? Both statements are condemnably wrong, but one was made in March to purely obtain a reaction in time for the April election, create commotion and intolerance, and result in an election defeat for the BJP.

The BJP was stone deaf to the provocation. Elections in Assam proceeded on schedule, and the BJP won a historic, and overwhelming mandate. The Assam result also shows that the Modi government is willing to learn from its past mistakes. Notice how they ran the Assam campaign — local leaders, growth and development issues, etc.

And when the time came for the BJP to celebrate on May 19 nobody said we should have domestic laddoos rather than foreign cakes; further, the cake was decorated in green, and not saffron.

There is another large lesson — this one from West Bengal — for all politicians and political junkies. The Congress and the Left had observed the Bihar cohabitation of political foes and concluded that this “experiment” was immensely replicable. In 2011, a simple addition of the Congress and the Left vote share gives us 49 per cent, in contrast to a 39 per cent vote share for AITC (Trinamool Congress). In a two party system, that would be a landslide. The Congress and the Left Front politicians, with more than umpteen years of political experience, added two plus two and decided the answer was four. So they ganged up against Mamata and dreamt of an easy victory Bihar-style. After all, Bihar is next door to West Bengal, so what worked a few miles away, should work.

In the end, two plus two ended up with zero, not four. Why? Because Bihar happened not only because of the successful intolerance campaign but also because of some chemistry in the voting for Nitish and Lalu — the Bihar voter probably thought: One Kurmi, another Yadav, what is the difference? However, the Bengali voter was faced with the following kind of choice — as an Indian, vote for either Germany winning the World War II or Japan. Sometimes, the math just does not add up.

It was eerie, but if one closed one’s eyes during the West Bengal election, and heard the AITC politicians, they sounded identical to Modi’s 2014 electoral campaign. It is not that Mamata was copying Modi. It is just that, unknown to the Congress and the Left, but known to everyone else, the voter is demanding the same from all politicians — infrastructure, bijli, jobs, paani. The voter is saying give us development, stupid. And only the stupid are not listening.

It brings tears to members of my generation to see this demand among the poor and the emerging middle class of India. Girls getting educated, fertility rate going down, liberation of both men and women in the workplace, emancipation with equality, the Patels and the RSS demanding economic (not caste-based) reservations, and voters demanding development, not crass politics, or religion- or caste- based politics. Times have changed, and how. Long live democracy, long live development — the promised achhe din are coming to the doorstep of the poor, the downtrodden, and those discriminated against. That is the lesson of the Assam-West Bengal elections.

 

 

The writer is contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’, and senior India analyst, The Observatory Group, a New York-based macro policy advisory group  

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  1. H
    Hemant Kumar
    May 21, 2016 at 4:23 am
    With information technology with its wide applications in the ameilioration of the condition of people, knocking at the door, the world has opened to the people making them aware of vast potential for development overall thereby pull of dynasty politics has weakened.
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      Akshay Joshi
      May 21, 2016 at 11:06 am
      the so called 2 women have won it because of their cast, freebies and biased politics!!
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      1. S
        Saurabh
        May 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm
        Bhalla you have become full time bhakt, you will surely get ur padma award soon..
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        1. K
          K SHESHU
          May 21, 2016 at 10:47 am
          am win is over-exagerated. More than am, west Bengal and Tamil nadu elections are remarkable since two women leaders confronted male dominated political parties.
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            Achal
            May 21, 2016 at 1:20 am
            I liked the e.original article by .r halla. It is true today's generation is not bothered about casfe politics. Everyone aspires to earn with dignity. We all want reforms which in tern will lead to empowerment of woman, improvement in social indicators, improvement in work culture and productivity. I would also like to appreciate in depth analysed article by Mr Bhalla written before the election. His predictions were once again correct! Am admi party has not yet responded to Mr Bhalla where he calculated the surge prize paid by Govt of Delhi to private buses at the expense of public money!
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              AG
              May 21, 2016 at 7:56 pm
              Bhalla stop your Bhaktigiri. BJP in Asam gets 60 seats and 29.5% votes while Congress gets 31% and 26 seats. Without AGP and BPF and ex-Cong leaders BJP is still nothing in Asam.
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                ak.dev
                May 21, 2016 at 1:02 pm
                And he is proved right. AAP's win in Delhi embly proves that corruption is an important issue.
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                1. a
                  ak.dev
                  May 21, 2016 at 1:13 pm
                  I am sure you'll ride bullet train one day.
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                    ak.dev
                    May 21, 2016 at 6:58 am
                    The real test of political strategies would be in UP state elections.
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                    1. O
                      Observer
                      May 21, 2016 at 6:03 am
                      130 Congress MLAs won vs, 65 of BJP. And Bhalla thinks BJP has done a great job!!! BJP did not open its account in 2 States, got 3 in Bengal vs, 44 of congress and got 1 in Kerala vs, 24 of congress. BJP scored a zero in TN and Pudducherry. Of course all want development. But no one wants jhumlas , rhetoric and a communal agenda. All want peace and security. Bhalla is at his psychophantic best!!
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                        Anjul
                        May 21, 2016 at 6:29 am
                        "Acche Din" for poors? Really????
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                          arun
                          May 21, 2016 at 6:16 am
                          Dr.Bhalla will have his foot in his mouth again when the Punjab elections are completed.
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                            arun
                            May 21, 2016 at 6:49 am
                            Modi is working for the UCVH (upper caste veg hindus)
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                              SK
                              May 21, 2016 at 3:20 am
                              Very good analysis is congress going to learn any lesson from this, the answer is big no. The surgery recommended by Digvi jay Singh amounts to nothing. Nobody dares to challenge hi family and the rot will go on to ultimate death.
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                                Balaji Venkatraman
                                May 21, 2016 at 2:41 am
                                Sir , Bihar Election was around Caste and BJP 's Hot Head spoiled the Party .. if BJP Focused Back on the Development Agenda 100 % they would have defeated Nitish .. More Interesting Question Nitish Lallu Combination is an experiment and now it showing the results .. and wokrs in advantage to BJP Now
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                                  indian
                                  May 23, 2016 at 3:36 am
                                  Dr. Bhalla'a analysis has always been of poor quality - be it economics, cricket or politics. He hasnt commented on the vote shares at all.
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                                  1. T
                                    Tellitasitis
                                    May 21, 2016 at 5:33 am
                                    Dr Bhalla, does your umption hold good for Bihar and cow belt as well?
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                                      arvij
                                      May 21, 2016 at 10:06 am
                                      Article is well balanced. Cast based politics and corruption stillexist in Jungle Raj Bihar of convicted fraudster and his friend and admirer who want to be India's PM to bring raj in India as a w. No that Banerjee has declared Bengal is corruption free (!!!) thet are ideal partners for national stage. Want to bring Jungle Raj in all over India !
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                                        BharatK
                                        May 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm
                                        Hindus in Asom, irrespective of ethnicities and languages, have self-respect and love for the state and the region. Tarun Gogoi worked as a domestic servent of Congress monarchy, so people kicked him out. Hindus in other parts of Bharat/India need to learn from Asom.
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                                          Chandran
                                          May 22, 2016 at 9:27 am
                                          BJP gave away more seats and contested less obviously BJP vote share will be less. Cong vote share includes that of those who lost deposit.
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                                            Ananth
                                            May 21, 2016 at 3:16 am
                                            I meant unbridled looting of the National wealth of trhe country.
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