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Bihar saves India again

November 09, 2015 14:45 IST

'The BJP should realise that a very large number of people -- from the 'perfumed liberals' to the 'illiterate' masses of Bihar -- is trying to tell them that this is not the 'development' they wanted.

'Stop telling people what to eat, what to wear, what to read, who to love and how not to show dissent,' says Mango Indian.

JD-U supporter celebrates

IMAGE: A Janata Dal-United supporter celebrates in New Delhi. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

 

Bihar is where the idea of India was born: This was the seat of the mighty Mauryan Empire that at its zenith stretched from Afghanistan to Assam, from the Himalayas to brushing shoulders with the Cholas. The land of Ashoka; the land of Nalanda.

And this ventricle of the Gangetic heartland on Sunday, November 8, once again saved the idea of India by soundly rejecting the politics of hate.

For some people, the reasons for the Bharatiya Janata Party getting KO-ed in Bihar are the same as those for global warming: Nehru, secularism, intellectuals, and the media. Casteist, illiterate vote, they might at best add.

But then these are the same people who will say the Dadri lynching is a state law and order problem and have no problem with the riots under Narendra Modi's watch in Gujarat.

Bihar had two choices.

It was laid siege on by a prime minister who showpieced Mahatma Gandhi abroad and saw no perfidy in trying to play the backward classes against the minorities in one of India's most backward states. By his deputy who is expert at cleaving divides.

The other option was a man who they knew was honest, along with a man who they knew was dishonest.

Nitish Kumar has been amazing because there is near-zero anti-incumbency against him even after 10 years of ruling Bihar. So the thumbs up for him is understandable, even if the development Bihar has seen would have been commendable if it was the 1970s.

But the most stunning political comeback of this election is of Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose teaming up with his comrade turned archrival is proof that you can put Lalu in jail but you can't ignore him in politics.

If you ask people in Bihar, the fear of the jungle raj of the Lalu-Rabri years is just as real as the fear of his core constituency. And yet, Lalu's RJD had the best strike rate of all parties in terms of percentage of winning candidates.

It means that the people trusted the combo of Nitish and Lalu. The former with his track record of being clean even with corruption all around him, and the latter with his history of stopping the BJP in its tracks.

Everyone in Bihar knows the socialist Lalu -- one of whose twenty-something sons rides a Honda superbike -- stopped L K Advani's poisonous rath by arresting the BJP patriarch in October 1990.

There are many such subplots to the battle that Modi lost resoundingly on Sunday, ironically Advani's birthday. Was the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's 'review reservation' statement gaffe or subterfuge?

Did the timing of the black money jumla and the Jan Dhan account convince the not so savvy that Rs 15 lakh (Rs 1.5 million) was en route to their government accounts that weren't even for free because they had to shell out for passbooks?

Did Prashant Kishor, Modi's 2014 campaign manager who reportedly fell out with Amit Shah and steered the Nitish Kumar campaign, prove to be the real Chanakya?

The BJP failed -- or chose not to -- to lay part claim to Nitish Kumar's goodwill by refusing to underline its own role as the JD-U's ruling partner for most of the 10 years.

Instead, the BJP led by Narendra Modi ran a negative, divisive campaign. Gone was the veneer of development.

The prime minister said in public rallies that Nitish and Lalu were planning to take away quota from the backward classes and castes and give them to 'a community'.

The morning after campaigning ended for the minority-dominated Seemanchal region, his party ran advertisements in local language dailies that screamed: 'Chief minister, your mate repeatedly insulted the cow holy to every Indian, and you kept silent.'

Sushil Kumar Modi, who till Saturday, November 7, was supremely confident of being sworn in as chief minister, repeatedly called it a fight between those who love the cow and those who eat it.

And Amit Shah, whose face beamed from every BJP poster in Bihar alongside Modi, showed why he and his boss are such divisive figures: By declaring that even if by mistake the BJP lost Bihar, there would be celebrations in Pakistan.

It was code, perfected by hate, for a community. It was the politics of us and them. It was Modi's mian Musharraf all over again.

And that is what Bihar rejected. Even in urban strongholds, the BJP's victory margins fell quite badly. The party has lost large swathes of Bihar that it swept just last year during the Lok Sabha elections.

So all those sneering at Biharis as a bunch of fools must ask themselves if the Biharis were a bunch of fools when they were swept away by Modi's achche din promise last year. And why Modi kept portraying himself as an EBC or OBC.

If Bihar had fallen to the politics of polarisation, the rancid air of hate would have putrefied even more. Because next year, six states go to the hustings. Key states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam.

The Bihar elections need not have been a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had he not made it so. His 'I Me Myself' campaign left no doubt about the national import of the state polls.

This is not the first time Bihar has rejected authoritarians. Mahatma Gandhi began his experiment with nonviolent protest from Champaran. Bihar was where rebellion against Indira Gandhi's Emergency rang out deafeningly.

Modi reportedly said the nation can demand answers from him after five years. Well, the people are asking tough questions already.

The global warming-secularism linkers can scream 'anti-national' at everyone speaking out against this government and its myriad misguided and dangerous policies, but the BJP should realise that a very large number of people -- from the 'perfumed liberals' to the 'illiterate' masses of Bihar -- is trying to tell them that this is not the 'development' they wanted.

Stop telling people what to eat, what to wear, what to read, who to love and how not to show dissent. This is no manufactured rebellion.

Mango Indian