Updated: November 9, 2015 10:32:34 am
It was 9 am, some TV channels had jumped the gun to project a BJP win and party chief Amit Shah, the architect of the Bihar campaign, left his 11, Akbar Road, home to greet L K Advani on his birthday. In less than an hour, as he saw the Grand Alliance lead steadily climb to more than 70 seats, Shah, his aide told The Indian Express, got the first intimations of defeat.
By the time he returned home at 10.30 am, it was almost over — a resounding defeat for the man who had invested a blistering eight months in Bihar with three-hour sleep and a fasting blood sugar of 230. His refrain on the campaign trail: “No one has a real idea of how much urja (energy) we have invested in Bihar.”
With that energy nowhere evident in the final tally today, the party’s chief strategist — his icons are Chanakya and Veer Savarkar — had failed. And failed spectacularly.
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On his return, he walked up to his mother’s photograph and stood there for two minutes. She passed away in 2010 and Shah, aides said, prayed for her blessings “to withstand the crisis.”
With the defeat confirmed, his campaign comrades Ananth Kumar, Bhupendra Yadav and Dharmendra Pradhan joined him. Once the Grand Alliance crossed the 140-mark, Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Rajnath Singh dropped in. The consensus of their huddle: this was “caste, caste and caste-based voting.” They had two key arguments: One, “Until he starts enjoying the fruits of economic growth, the poor voter at the bottom of the social pyramid will continue to put his trust only in his caste leader who he thinks will deliver.” And, two: “We always knew RJD-JD(U) and Congress had arithmetic in their favour. Their caste base was known. When we tried to mix development with Hindu sentiments we found that castes like Yadavs were looking at their own chance to get power. We used certain Hindu idioms to break caste nexus but we failed.” A Cabinet Minister who attended Shah’s lunch said: “The defeat shows that we could not enhance our social base in Bihar at all.”
Sources said BJP spokespersons have got the message from the “highest level” to “defend RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (some in the party have expressed reservations about his comment on quotas) and not speak against his comments in any manner on TV shows.”
At lunch, Shah downplayed the defeat. “Lokshahi mein haar-jeet chalti rahti hai. Have your food,” he told party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya. And told his deputies that he would convene a meeting after Diwali to discuss plans for the West Bengal poll campaign. He asked his deputies to call all defeated candidates and district BJP chiefs in Bihar and tell them not to be “depressed.” He told one of the many who called him today: “I have the energy to work for the next two lives.”
Right through the day, his phone kept ringing with calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his family members and relatives, too. His most common reply: “I have not lost courage. I will try and understand what happened on the ground and how. We will move on and recover fast. You don’t worry. Keep praying to God.”
Even though Shah claimed that the party had not lost confidence, there is little doubt that the defeat has hit it hard. Some in the party attribute it to the “forwards vs backwards” formulation of RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav. Indeed, Shah, aides said, thinks that the Yadav voters wanted the “Yadav raj” back and that’s why voted for Nitish Kumar with their feet.
Many BJP leaders claim that the beef issue had little impact. “Is there any doubt that Muslims would not have voted en masse for the Grand Alliance? BJP raised cow and such issues only after Phase 3 and Phase 4 of voting was over. We have got 12 seats out of 23 so how can you say voters rejected us for mentioning cow and beef?”
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