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Why the BJP lost: 5 reasons from 'expat' Biharis

By Sudhir Bisht
November 09, 2015 21:35 IST
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'The greatness of Indian democracy is that it never lets any political pundit master the pulse of the electorate. Sometimes people vote for change and sometimes they vote for the status quo.'

Sudhir Bisht spoke to Biharis in Delhi to find out why the BJP was routed in Bihar.

IMAGE: Janata Dal-United supporters celebrate in New Delhi. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

It is well known that Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida have seen a growing influx of migrants from Bihar over the past several years.

From top bureaucrats who live in D-II and CII flats in South Delhi to the humble rickshaw-pullers who take you from Dwarka Sector 11 Metro station in New Delhi to the popular Sector VI market, you will find Biharis in all walks of life in the National Capital Region.

Having lived in various parts of Delhi for the past 50 years, I have known Biharis to be the most politically involved community in our country.

From my Bihari friends who occupy premium positions in the oil and gas sector, in the education sector, in the telecom sector, in the world of journalism and in the business of real estate and from the security guards from Bihar who work at thousands of group housing society flats in the NCR, I have learnt one or two things.

A Bihari guards his pride most zealously. He will go on an empty stomach, but would never stomach insults.

Another thing about Biharis is that you can take a Bihari out of Bihar, but you can never take Bihar out of a Bihari.

The students who live in the hostels of North Campus and the IAS officers who occupy high offices in the government in Lutyens Delhi, the Biharis are actively in touch with their home state.

They may have come to Delhi in search of greener pastures, but none of them can think of disassociating themselves from Bihar, even loosely. They are well connected with their home state, with their divisional headquarters, with the happenings in their district and what's going on with the block level developmental politics.

They are abreast of the problems in their village. They feel sad if the rabi crop fails and celebrate if the kharif crop exceeds expectations.

I spoke to many of my Bihari friends in Delhi to know why the Bihar electorate gave such a knockout punch to the Bharatiya Janata Party. The suddenness and magnitude of the jab have left the BJP strategists and media pundits gasping for breath.

Five reasons that my Bihari friends in Delhi provided me for the BJP's mammoth loss:

1. The BJP couldn't find a single Bihari worthy of projection

My Bihari friends -- and many of them have been very, very, appreciative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi even now -- are amazed that the BJP fought the Bihar election without a single Bihari face.

"The BJP had Sushil Modi who was the deputy CM in the BJP-Janata Dal-United alliance for so many years. He had been chairman of the most important national committee on GST and had been associated with the JP movement. The man is known for his honesty and for his administrative abilities," one Bihari friend said. "Could he not have been projected as the CM candidate?"

"Just because someone in the BJP said that having two Modis will not gel well with the electorate is useless logic. If two Gujaratis can be the face of the Bihar campaign, why can't two Modis be the face of the campaign?"

Clearly not having a Bihari lead the charge against the JD-U-Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress combine that had Nitish Kumar leading from the front was a mistake the BJP made.

2. The BJP didn't get its caste arithmetic correct

The Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manji camps were constantly taking potshots at one another and neither brought in Dalit votes.

During important rallies, the BJP showed Manjhi and Paswan more respect than its leaders. The upper castes that traditionally voted for the BJP was thus alienated.

On the other hand, the JD-U and RJD kept its vote banks intact and with the minority community solidly behind Nitish and Lalu, the Mahagathbandhan romped home

3. Personal attacks on Nitish Kumar by BJP leaders didn't go down well with Bihar's voters

Nitish Kumar is seen as a leader who is incorruptible, progressive and development-oriented. His rule has been free of any major scandal. He was also seen as someone who was humble enough to have apologised for committing the mistake of having given power to Manjhi, an inept and seemingly disloyal lieutenant.

Nitish Kumar had no anti-incumbency wave against him. In this respect his administration was on par with Shivraj Singh Chouhan's administration in Madhya Pradesh.

The personal remarks about Nitish Kumar's 'DNA' didn't go well down with the middle class. The BJP started the campaign on its development agenda, but somewhere down the line the party lost track.

4. The BJP gave an opportunity to link Bihari pride with Nitish Kumar

The PM is seen as a national figure and the way he went into battle mode almost single-handedly with Nitish Kumar was a bit strange. This elevated Nitish Kumar's stature so much more. And Bihari pride didn't want to let go of this opportunity.

After many years they had someone from their ranks who was fit for battle with the mighty prime minister of India. The Bihari middle class had no option but to rally behind their leader.

5. Nitish Kumar exploited the 'hurt' to Bihari pride by the way the Bihar package was announced

When Modi asked at at an election rally, '50,000 crore? 60,000 crore? 70,000 crore? I promise Rs 1.25 lakh crore,' Nitish Kumar likened it to an auction of Bihar's self-respect.

The children of Emperor Ashoka were left feeling like the mendicants of Magadh. The package that was supposed to be the lynchpin of the BJP's offering turned out to be its undoing.

Is this analysis from my Bihari friends right? It could be.

One thing is for sure. It gives a general indication of the mood that prevailed in Bihar.

The greatness of Indian democracy is that it never lets any political pundit master the pulse of the electorate. Sometimes people vote for change and sometimes they vote for the status quo.

Bihar's elections are over and let's pray that the popular mandate works for the welfare of the people. And that the prime minister stays true to his word and does provide Bihar the package that he announced.

My heart says Modi will not renege on his promise. And I am sure Nitish Kumar too will deliver. Amen!

Sudhir Bisht is an author and columnist. He writes from New Delhi.

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