The Bihar results are out and have proved that those who tried to influence the polls before or after through their ‘exit’ strategies had egg on their face. I have not really believed reading all these during this period but I have found two things watching and observing various ‘experts’. As the ‘patrakars’ who claim ‘grounded’ in reality are concerned, they are divided into pro and anti-factions of Narendra Modi. So, if over 80% of the experts were giving NDA a chance rest 20% were actually certain that Mahagathbandhan will take over. None was given a chance to Owaisi and his AIMIM. Most of them felt that Chirag Paswan won’t be able to do anything but he ‘succeeded’ indenting Nitish Kumar who is playing his last innings.
Tejaswi Yadav also needs to be a bit careful.
There are few things that these results have shown and this is a trend that every election is different in India and local issues will dominate. BJP’s Ram Mandir and Kashmir will not work everywhere but at the same point of time, Tejaswi Yadav also needs to be a bit careful. His image was being ‘constructed’ by the Savarna ‘coterie’ that ‘social justice’ has ceased to be an issue and now only ‘economic justice’ needs to be done. I want to suggest that Social Justice will remain the most important issue in India as long as the feudal structure does not change. If Bihar’s election has any takeaway, it is that India will have to be governed through ‘inclusive’ ideology and castes which remain unrepresented are seeking their participation in the power structure. It is therefore essential for political parties which claim to represent a ‘national’ or regional concern to understand their ‘limitations’. Most of them have been unable to reach beyond their ‘constituencies’ while BJP has moved fast on many fronts in this regard.
After Ram Vilas Paswan’s demise, I wrote that secular parties lost it because they never gave him respect. Both Nitish and Lalu Yadav had their problems with Ram Vilas Paswan and that was probably because of his caste location which finally resulted in bickering with both of them. In these elections, Chirag Paswan proved that even when he is unable to win, he can damage the party and that should be a lesson for all.
If Chirag were with Nitish or Tejaswi Yadav, both would have secured a full majority and perhaps would never have needed BJP or Congress to carry along with them.
In my previous analysis, I had mentioned that for a national platform against BJP, Congress can be an important ally but it should also keep in mind to remain pragmatic and not compel parties to give it seats more than it deserved. Congress did nothing in Bihar in the last five years. The way Priyanka has been touring Uttar Pradesh and focussing on issues, Bihar remained out of touch for her. I don’t know what was the politics. If Tejaswi had given more seats to CPI-ML, it would have had better results but then all these are ifs and buts. The thing is that Tejaswi needs to strengthen his Social Justice Alliance more powerfully with the left parties. I don’t think Chirag can come over unless he really gets fed away with BJP which is a remote possibility.
This is also a reality that Congress Party has a limited base and it has not been able to spread it in Bihar. Blaming Asaduddin Owaisi for the failure of their party is their own inability to look beyond it. Congress Party, as well as RJD and others, tried to ‘focus’ on ‘development’ and pretended as if ‘caste’ has been ‘annihilated’ from Bihar. At no point in time, we saw an assurance from these leaders to the most powerless groups by speaking about them.
The biggest response from Bihar has come in the form of AIMIM winning five seats.
Its leader Asaduddin Owaisi was focussing on Seemanchal area of Bihar and today that gambit has paid off. He made an alliance with BSP and RLSP party. Many people are suggesting that AIMIM was able to get Dalit OBC votes but not the vice versa. So, it is clear that after Owaisi winning five seats in Seemanchal, the alliance with BSP and RLSP will go the same way as happened to Prakash Ambedkar. I think any alliance which emerges just before the poll will not work and they have to stitch on the ideological front. Unfortunately, Bihar does not give a comfortable answer to this as political parties are being floated by the caste individuals who are unable to get their share in bigger parties and they bargain then. So, people still vote along the caste lines. Nitish failed miserably because his caste does not have enough presence in the state and he was always a leader needed by the savarnas to counter the so-called Jungle Raj of Lalu Yadav. This time, as is being reported, Chirag Paswan’s savarna candidates were responsible for the decimation of Nitish’s party.
Identity issues remain the main issue during the elections and our ‘liberal’ and ‘communal’ ‘experts’ were suggesting that Bihar is speaking about ‘sushaasan’ and rising above the caste lines.
BJP’s rise has made it abundantly clear that Sawarna’s will remain with BJP for a long time and all attempts to ‘appease’ them by social justice parties will not succeed. These parties can only get Sawarna votes when they have fielded a powerful candidate who has a chance to win and those votes will be limited to particular constituencies. If the parties are thinking that their Sarvjan narrative will be able to bring bulk Savarna votes to them, I would advise them to seriously think about it. They don’t need to shout against anyone but please focus on your own constituencies. If the Social Justice parties are able to focus on Bahujan narrative with inclusion which means Bahujan parties need to bring most marginalised communities into their fold, they have a better chance. A BSP will be able to get more votes from Balmikis, Kols, Kushwaha, Kurmis, Rajbhars etc if it nurtures them, unlike the Brahmins who will only vote according to chances of winning candidates.
BJP consolidating Savarna votes and dividing the others is a well-established and proven strategy and it is for the other parties to take their lessons. Congress will not gain unless BJP is weakened because both the parties have the same leadership structure. At the moment, the Savaranas cannot think of dividing them into two groups as that division will only help the Bahujans or Avarans to power. Congress, unfortunately, has not learnt its lesson because learning its lesson and implementation of them means Congress’s Mandalisation process which will never happen as long as the party adheres to Brahmanical narrative and does not provide enough space to Bahujan communities. Of course, Congress must continue to strengthen its social base in the states where it has a direct fight with BJP.
Another factor of these elections is a wakeup call for secular parties. All these years these secular parties took Muslims for granted and never raised their issues. During the last six years, the Muslim community faced so much of demonisation but none of these parties who are now blaming Owaisi for cutting their votes spoke for them so powerfully. The parties are feeling that raising the issue of Muslims will ‘polarise’ the voters while BJP has been powerfully demonising them during the campaign, our opposition parties did not bother to respond to them on the same. If Muslims feel that secular parties in India have betrayed them because they don’t raise their issues and not providing them enough community leaders then their grievances are not unjustified. In a country like India, if Muslims have put their faith in the secular parties during the past seventy years without getting fair representation or resolution to their issues, now they have started seeking answers in a true representation. When every caste is consolidating itself, why should not the Muslims consolidate them under a political party and fight the battle politically? In fact, I had asked this question to Mr Ali Anwar during a discussion on Facebook live and he somehow agreed that it was a reality that for the political parties, Muslim issues does not matter, only their vote matters. Most of the candidates of AIMIM won handsomely and it can only strengthen Owaisi’s resolve to take the battle to Uttar Pradesh and Bengal. He is a capable leader who has spoken powerfully on the issue of CAA and NRC which secular parties failed and the result is Muslims have begun trusting him and there is nothing wrong in it. You cannot disenfranchise a community in democracy by denying it political space. The communities will fight and weave their own network and it has happened in Bihar.
The performance of left parties in Bihar particularly CPI-ML who have a strong network and cadre in Bihar and Jharkhand. Over the years, CPIML has worked hard to raise people’s issues and provided representation to diverse communities. They do not have money and media but deep commitment towards social justice. I wish the Gath Bandhan had given them more seats. I can say, in Bihar and Jharkhand’s future polity, CPI-ML is going to play a very decisive role in future and Tejaswi Yadav and RJD must develop better coordination with them. It can work wonders in future.
Finally, Tejaswi Yadav has proved that he can deliver. He worked hard and needed to stitch these alliances at the local level.
Tejaswi Yadav is much more powerful now. Right now, Bihar will not have a stable government. If Nitish Kumar becomes chief minister, he will be at the mercy of BJP. The party is over and the Savarna vote of Nitish Kumar is now with BJP while its OBC votes in the coming days will shift to RJD unless BJP plays a Mandalised politics in Bihar.
BJP could not become the largest party in Bihar but they will build their narrative for Bengal. The left parties need to stitch their alliance better in Bengal and it will be good if all these parties build understanding to take Trinamool but at the same point of time BJP. Bengal is going to have CAA and NRC issues and certainly, Asaduddin Owaisi is going to contest in Bengal. He definitely has a right to be there as both Muslims and Dalits have never got their due in Bengal by the so-called mainstream parties. BJP is jumping on the Dalit issues and trying to reach the Namsudra community compelling Mamata Banerjee to declare some specific measures for the community.
One fact is clear from these elections that India cannot be governed by one community or party. India will always need Mahagathbandhans of communities. Political parties will have to understand their limitations and unnecessarily not go into the regions where they don’t exist. Though as a right you can fight anywhere if we have to look at the long-term solution to India’s political crisis, we will need coalitions to govern India and these coalitions will only function when they are based on concrete common minimum programmes and do not emerge just on the eve of Elections. Political parties need to spread their social base and build cadres and leaders from diverse communities as ‘identity’ and demand for social acceptance and justice is still very much valid. Bihar’s election proved that smaller parties may look smaller and may not demand much but they can damage you more powerfully. It is time, we realise this reality.
Good thing is that Tejaswi Yadav has a future. He can build up not only his party but also strengthen the alliance on a long-term strategy as Bihar will not have a stable government at the moment as it needs to be seen how long both Nitish Kumar and BJP will tolerate each other in the changed circumstances and how Chirag Paswan is handled by the BJP leadership. Bihar will have ‘interesting’ days of politics ahead so forget about ‘governance’. Be prepared for more entertainment in the coming days.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
November 11th, 2020