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Bihar verdict: Ten Important Messages to learn

The Bihar verdict that came on 8th November, 2015 is not only strong, clear and stunning but is also full of messages. Among the various aspects of this verdict and its various analysis, it’s important to reflect upon few messages which are loud in meanings:

1. The first and foremost message from the Bihar verdict is the same one that of late we’ve been getting now from the electorates nationwide – decisive mandate. It appears that the people are no longer in doubt. Now, they’re clear in their minds and giving the best possible mandate to politicians in successive elections. This verdict giving close to three-fourth majority to the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan is just the one in a long series of decisive mandates coming since a decade now.The Bihar assembly elections of 2005 and 2010, UP assembly elections of 2007 and 2012, successive Gujarat assembly elections since 2002 to 2012, the Orissa assembly elections under BJD, the general election of 2014, the assembly elections of Delhi – all of these have handed down clear and decisive mandates. Except with the exception of Maharashtra & J&K, the people have been picking up one party/alliance or other and showering it with decisive votes with clear message to govern.

2. The second clear message is that people are willing to return a performer to power. If a political party performs and delivers on promises, people are happy to return it in power. Despite all political controversies around Modi vs Nitish, the people of Bihar never forgot the excellent governance record of Nitish Kumar and reposed full confidence in his ability to turn things around in Bihar. Thus, they rewarded Nitish – who is, though, now leading a weird Mahagathbandhan – with a resounding hatrick. Hence, the message – perform or perish – is now unambiguously reinforced. If you fail to perform the masses would beat you hollow to a mummy, as happened with congress successively in recent elections.

3. The third and very powerful message is that caste is still the dominant force in the political discourse of Bihar as is Muslim Vote bank. Untill the battle was confined between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, the narrative was largely veering around development and growth. But, the moment Lalu Yadav entered the fray holding the hand of Nitish Kumar, he reset the political narrative of Bihar with strong caste overtones and became successful in keeping the whole political discourse hooked to ‘agda vs. pichhada’ (backward vs forward). In the state, dominated by the backwards and dalits, the strategy paid back and helped Lalu script one of the most successful political comebacks in recent Indian politics. The consolidation of the backward votes in favour of the Mahagathbandhan and the absence of consolidation of ECB/Mahadalit votes in BJP’s favour has lot to do with the changed narratives scripted consciously by Lalu.

A small corollary to the above is the consolidation, once again of Muslim votes, against the BJP. The BJP, which had of late been successful in breaking the ground and making a considerable inroads into the Muslim votebank riding on its promises of development and governance, now seems to have lost that goodwill among the community. The inherent fear of the community from BJP and its hate towards Modi seem to be back, thanks to the intolorence movement unleashed timely by the Leftist intellectuals creating an air of fear and apprehensions in the minds of the community and concurrent emergence of Mahagathbandhan which played on this fear to its full advantage – and thus, became successful in projecting itself as the old alternative worth relying. Thus, the message is that the Muslims, who had once deserted the camp of Lalu and congress, would continue to vote them en bloc even if the Mahagathbandhan fails to deliver for them. An aura of security is more important to the community than good roads and jobs.

4. The fourth message is that the Mahagathbandhan would try to experiment with a new era of alliance partnership where the major parties would complement to each other, not compete with each other. The marriage of convenience for strange bedfellows in Nitish and Lalu, would now come to be seen as a natural event waiting to happen. Here, Nitish Kumar is put forth as the face of development and governance while Lalu Yadav as the face of social justice within the alliance. Both will stick to their own agenda and complement each other to take the governance forward. Hence, the alliance would be projected as an architecturally brilliant entity, though many analysts think the other way.

5. The fifth message is that Narendra Modi is going to face a real political challenge in days to emerge from here. The repercussion of this Bihar verdict will be long-term. Till now all these ‘intolerant-to-Modi’ movements were suffering of a leadership vacuum. Now these intolerant intellectuals would find a political leader in Nitish Kumar to rally around and with Lalu by his side spitting venom and raising decibels in his characteristic tomfoolery, the anti-Modi movement, so far ideological, is now likely to have a strong political base. Soon, Nitish will be projected as alternative to Modi on national level and this movement will culminate into substitute-Modi-with-Nitish clamour.

The leftist intellectuals have tasted blood and their intolerance movement, which so far had remained a fight to retain their existence in the fast shrinking ideological space for the Left, will now grow into a battle for regaining their original dominance in India, riding on the brawny shoulders of Nitish-Lalu. Now, for Modi, who had got a free run so far, a real opposition has emerged to filibuster his political efforts in 2019. Good for democracy, maybe.

6. The sixth message is that Lalu’s political ambitions are once again on the rise. It opens lots of questions. After the victory, where Nitish looked much modest in his address to the media, Lalu looked effusive in his flamboyance and made no bones about his national ambitions. Nitish Kumar very well understands that this mandate is for governance and hence he’s to prove himself on these counts first in Bihar. But, Lalu shares no such modest views. Now with the state government under his belt, he would embark upon a national mission to expand his experiment. Though, Nitish Kumar would more likely be the preferred choice of the anti-Modi fighters because of many factors, Lalu would also strive to gain the same political space within the nation and in all likelihood, would try to appropriate this leadership role for himself. Hence, this may become a cause a conflict between the two in days to come.

However, much of it will depend on How the Mahagathbandhan government performs and fares on the parameters of development. With Lalu breathing down his neck, will Nitish get a free hand in implementing his agenda of good governance is something very interesting to see. Will the Yadavas, Lalu’s support base, would discipline themselves and not unleash the goondaraj they once unleashed in the hinterlands under the patronage of Lalu? They must be scenting power, too. Will the dominant Kurmis, the support base of Nitish Kumar, accept the resurgence of Yadavas they once detested? Further, will Nitish Kumar be comfortable with the parivarvad of Lalu and be able to contain the political ambitions of his two sons, whom Lalu would certainly like to groom for larger roles? With highest number of seats in the Patna assembly, it will be foolish to expect that Lalu would play second fiddle to Nitish for long. Hence, how to contain the Machiavellian Lalu would be the real challenge for Nitish in the days to come.

7. The seventh message is that political defeats are good for governments in democracy. A defeat for BJP is good for it so long it is willing to learn the lessons and commits not to repeat the mistakes. Unhindered victories in democracy may turn the political leadership dictator. Hence, intermittent defeats are necessary. Such defeats gives time to introspect and go for much-needed course correction. Black money promises, economic reforms, price rise, strong rules in government offices to the extent of annoying employees and harsher retirement policies are certain areas which need serious reviews. If the central government succeeds in such course corrections, it will strengthen it further and will make it fight it its opponents with better strategies. Hence, before the inherent contradictions in Lalu-Nitish coalition play themselves out and create opportunities in the state, the BJP must set its house in order. That way, it might be better placed for Bihar 2020.

8. The eighth message is that people are impatient. They want results – immediate, certain and visible. Lofty sloganeering and hollow promises are no longer sufficient to keep a party’s vote bank intact. The BJP promised plenty of good things for the common man but the latter finds nothing coming his way. It refuses to buy the argument that one year is too little a time for such changes to arrive. common man has grown smarter. He has become opportunist. Today‘s common man is no one’s eternal enemy, no one’s perpetual friend; only its interests are eternal. Hence, it has no allegiance. The people of Bihar, who had given 30+ seats to the BJP in the parliamentary elections just last year, changed allegiance and handed down the BJP its worst electoral defeat in Bihar in a decade. Hence, deliver what you promise and deliver it fast. Today’s 4G generation fumes at slow networks, slow smartphones, slow internets and slow delivery of pizzas; how can it wait on slow delivery of promises? Hence, the electorate of Bihar beat the BJP with its own stick of ‘achhe din’.

9. The ninth message is that no one is a spent force in Indian politics. The only thing that matters is the capacity to hang on and to keep slogging one’s way through all adversities. Just a year back, Lalu Yadav – thrown on his back after successive electoral defeats and after his conviction in fodder scam case – was being written off from Bihar politics and analysts were writing unceremonious epitaphs for him. But just within a year, he rose from his ashes to strike an alliance with Nitish Kumar in order to engineer the worst political coup on BJP’s chances in Bihar and thus, he registered an emphatic and incredible comeback for himself. Hence, when defeated in politics, just hang on in the middle and leverage on your chances judiciously; one day you’ll become a winner again. Mind, just as Lalu, no one is out of the race – neither the Congress or Rahul or even not the Communists.

10. The tenth message is that the common man is now the king. The common man – long cheated, mistreated, overlooked and underestimated – is now the new king of electoral politics. He has learned to assert his voice through voting and has discovered the benefits of it. He’s no longer the disenchanted citizens of the past who stayed away from electoral processes with the conviction that nothing changes with elections and voting. Now, people are convinced that things would change. If it doesn’t happen from above, the people have learnt to force it from the below. The common man has learnt the art of playing the role he’s supposed to play in the game of democracy – the role of a master.

Hence, it is important for the politicians to understand the psyche of a common man. This common man is now no one’s man. He will turn whichever way he finds his interests being served. Yesterday, the same common man found the BJP to be promising and he’d fallen for it. But, seeing the promises not being kept, he gave it a huge drubbing. This is smart politics. Such opportunism by people is good for democracy. Now, the politicians will think twice before promising moon. And, if they do, they’ll sign advance contracts for a sincere moon mission. Now, no one loves anyone for the sake of it. If you deliver you’ll be loved; if not, you’ll be kicked hard in the teeth.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri, 2015

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The Ten Messages from the Victory of AAP in Delhi

Delhi Election Result: Dream Victory for Arvind Kejriwal's AAP, BJP Flattened

Arvind means ‘Lotus’ (Kamal) in Hindi. But, the BJP which proudly flashes lotus as its symbol, couldn’t imagine in its worst dreams that one day another ‘lotus’, called Kejriwal – long ridiculed and written off – would totter on the way of its proud victory march and blow away its whole rank and file like a hidden landmine. A new ‘lotus’ is born in Delhi through a historic mandate that would probably never be beaten in times to come. The victory of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party is stunning, spectacular and full of messages.

The first message is that no one is a spent force in Indian politics. The only thing that matters is the capacity to hang on and to keep slogging one’s way through all adversities. The one who has vision and perseverance to implement his vision would see through the hardship to emerge victorious some day or other. Hence, in politics, just hang in the middle and leverage your opportunities judiciously to be the winner on your day. Arvind Kejriwal, once discredited and ruled out of the fray, proved that decisively. Mind, no one is out of the race – neither Congress nor Lalu, not even the Communists. They’re just biding time to rise from their ashes which one day, they will.

The second message is that key to political success is the ability of a politician to reach to the people in their own alleys. The Aam Aadmi Party had a people-centric vision and they planned things to implement that vision. While the opposition BJP – riding high on people’s mandate and money-power – made all sorts of noises about the ‘promised’ development on the television and social media, the AAP volunteers huddled back to the drawing board, drew a robust plan and went to the deepest alleys in the remotest corners of Delhi to reach to the last man from the marginalized section of society convincing them that they were their last hope. The people believed them because they found them well-intentioned, honest and approachable as opposed to the traditional politicians cut off from the masses and the ground realities. Tea with ‘Barrack’ is definitely important but no less important is to continue tea parties with people as well in the way Modi had been doing during the Lok Sabha hustings.

The third message is that while living in this world, you can’t hope to survive by living on the ‘digital continent’ rather you need to come down to face the people in flesh and blood. In today’s world, social media is a wonderful way of connecting to the people but in no way it’s a substitute of a face-to-face contact. Those who think that the social media and radio contacts would keep them well-connected with masses need a serious re-think on their strategy. Had it been truth, the BJP, with its highest presence in social media, wouldn’t have been beaten so badly in the highly urbanized constituency of Delhi with a cosmopolitan outlook. Hence, the message is – don’t shy; be among the masses to wipe their tears, something that only a hand can do and not a Smartphone.

The fourth message is that the public can’t be fooled long with empty sloganeering and political symbolism. They’re fed up of talks of development, growth, progress and results. They’re ready to wait; they’re prepared to give you time. But, don’t fool. Show honest intentions. Slogan mongering is good for entertaining the audience but they can’t necessarily fetch votes. To win votes you need to win people’s faith which requires honest efforts and plausible outcomes. Hence, the message is – If you promise, deliver; if you say, fulfill; if you commit, enact or else be ready to be swept out of your ivory tower of illusion.

The fifth message is that never trample the ambition and wishes of your grassroot workers. The politicians feel that they carry the goodwill of people. But, that goodwill emanates from the abilities of their grassroot workers, who keep trudging the lanes and by-lanes of hinterlands over years building up the aura around their leaders’ persona and generating goodwill. But, the leaders sitting pretty comfortable on this goodwill forget the importance and relevance of such grassroot workers and insulate themselves from the latter’s voices. Thus, they take arbitrary decisions overlooking their collective interests. The same happened in BJP, which parachuted an outsider in Kiran Bedi into CM’s position, totally overlooking the wishes of its grassroot level workers who had been working since decades in the party. The result was general dissension among the cadre leading to a considerable dent on their enthusiasm. Hence, the message is – abuse abundantly, but respects your men when they ask for it.

The sixth message is that the masses are kind; they forgive your blunders if you approach them with folded hands admitting your mistakes and repenting them over and over again. The same happened with Indira Gandhi after emergency in 1980 and the same happened with Kejriwal now. He bowed his head in repentance and in absolute subservience to people’s judgment. The public conceded the mistakes of Arvind Kejriwal and rewarded him with a handsome second-term. Hence, when make mistakes, admit instead of offering irritating justifications.

The seventh message is that the people, when silent, are most decisive. In democracy, politics is the last refuge of people; if you play politics with them, they will play politics with you. Hence, politicians! Beware of people’s mood and work for collective interest. Time and again, people have expressed their verdict in a decisive manner. Hence, don’t mess up with people mood. When they make up their mind, they punish decisively.

The eighth message is that the marginalized poors, the social underdog and the have-nots are a dominant force in Indian democracy and time and again they’ve proved that when given a free and fair opportunity to exercise their mandate, they speak up with their votes. This constituency, which lied orphaned after the sad demise of the Indian left after the 2009 general elections, was a big constituency to cater to. The AAP has stepped into the void and seized the electorate.

The ninth message is that a strong state, having a formidable mandate of the people will have a better bargaining power with a strong centre. Hence, it will result into the era of a better-run co-operative federalism with a new hope for development.

The tenth and the most important message is that a strong opposition sitting in Delhi is good for the politics as it will act as a constant spectre of defeat in the visions of the central government resulting in curtailment of autocratic tendencies in the leaders. The aura of invincibility around any politician is not a good sign for democracy. The constant fear of people’s whim will be the driving force behind performance. Moreover, periodic defeats are necessary for political parties for much needed course corrections as well as for removal of complacency from their word-views, which creeps in eventually.

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2015

Rahul Gandhi raises communal bogey in attempt to hit the BJP where it hurts most

Rahul GandhiAfter days of vacillating on it, Rahul Gandhi raises the communal bogey. In a public meeting at Churu, Rajasthan, Rahul came hard on BJP and in a head-on collision course it blamed BJP for inciting communal riots in the country which, he said, ultimately leads to terrorism. Thus, by putting the blame for communal riots and terrorism squarely on the main opposition party in the nation, he has tried to play the communal card with rich political dividend in sight.

To paint the BJP in communal colours has been the long-standing strategy of the congress party and it has worked many times in the past. But, Rahul Gandhi, in the run up to the 2014 elections, had been desisting from invoking it so far. Maybe because he understood that by talking of development and issues related to poor and youth he will be able to pull his party through in the coming elections. But, with pre-poll surveys across the spectrum repeatedly projecting the party to get the drubbing in the 2014 elections, desperation has started getting the better of him. Therefore, under the grip of panic, he chose to play the trump card of communalism hoping to polarize the nation along communal fault lines and sweep the windfall of minority votes.

But, the strategy is perilous – it carries the risk of communalizing the political discourse of our times. As it goes to ruffle the feathers of the BJP, the latter would certainly have a bone to pick with the Congress on this sensitive accusation. Though, the BJP of course is a party which has blotted its copybook by the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and by many other actions that casts it in communal mould, it certainly would like to question the credentials of the congress in the communal-secular debate.

So far the BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi treaded a cautious path by skirting the issue of communalism and he talked about positive issues like strengthening the bureaucratic-administrative functioning to lead development, economic growth and changes; he talked of creating structures for sustaining equitable growth that promised the fruit of development to the urban and rural societies alike. He talked about the issues of the middle class and the youth and tried to reach out to the Minorities promising them development and growth which had eluded them so far. He took the issues of corruption, nepotism and crony capitalism that has bled India in the past decades and promised a clean and efficient administration on the lines of his home state Gujarat where he’s been ruling since 2001. It connected him instantly with the middle class, the youth, the poors and to some extent, even with minorities. He talked tough and assured that he meant business.

The resurgent, restless India lauded him and the crowds cheered him with frenzied applause wherever he went. Over the time, his personality took the status of cult among his followers. This gave sleepless nights to Congress strategists who have always sought upmanship in the personality-centric politics of India.

In this tug of war, Rahul Gandhi found his grip slipping and this made him desperate. He has overexploited his welfare-oriented policies like Food Security Bill and MANREGA but finds the prospects of these policies returning votes very dismal. He knows he has nothing to talk on the development plank as each policy of his government is blotted by a scarier scam. Thus, the congress think-tank went overdrive to cut the BJP to size by playing the communal card. By slinging the mud of communalism on BJP they hope some of it would stick with them. Thus, they have chosen to strike the BJP where it hurts most.

But, by playing the communal card Rahul Gandhi runs the risk of exposing his own party’s records to closer scrutiny. The congress has many questions to answer on the front of secularism. One would be tempted to ask about Congress party’s support to organizations like Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI and about its track records in various communal riots like that of Bhagalpur, anti-sikh riots of 1984 and the recent Assam riots. One would like to highlight the communal agenda of the party by upturning the SC judgement on Shah Bano in 1987, by standing behind the terrorist encounter of Batla House, by its plan to give the Muslims reservations in government jobs, by its recent administrative instructions to state governments to not arrest the members of minority community in matters of terrorist investigations and by its proposed legislations like the Communal violence bill where it shamelessly attempts to put criminality on the majority community in a riot situation and subjecting the members of the majority community to harsher criminal procedures for the same crime. The history of the Congress party in the post-independence India is a chronology of facts how the party has fomented, nourished and sustained communalism by exploiting the communal fault-line to its own political advantages. Rahul Gandhi would find himself on a sticky wicket if he is invited to talk on communalism in India and the role of political parties in it. Maybe, partially because of his banal oratorical skills, he would never be ready for such a public trial. Thus, he sees virtue in making ambushes from the sidelines.

Thus, short of ideas on development and change and with an aim to deflect attention from issues of corruption, price rise, unemployment and misgovernance, Rahul Gandhi pushes communal agenda to the fore. But, in the process, the positive discourse of the 2014 elections runs the risk of being hijacked by the chancy talks of hate.

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