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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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Politics is the last refuge of a common man: Does it sound the end of the politics of vote-bank?

It's scary: Arvind Kejriwal on Delhi poll victory

Politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. I believed in this Samuel Emanuel inspired dictum as a gospel truth till I saw the recently held Delhi elections. The outcome of this election threw up interesting trends that made me turn my view up-side-down. Now, I’ve gone to reverse the dictum and substitute it with a new aphorism that says ‘Politics is the last refuge of a common man’. Honestly.

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. Now, he’s clear in his mind and giving the best possible mandate to politicians in successive elections. Take the examples of 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 and the just held assembly elections of Delhi – the one thing that is conspicuous by its commonality is that the people want to give clear and decisive mandates. They’re 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.

Earlier, political parties looked for segmented groups in societies whom they pampered and catered in return for votes. The Congress banked upon the Muslims and the Dalits, the Bhartiya Jansangh/BJP banked upon the Brahmins and traders, the communists banked upon the peasants and industrial labours, the post-mandal regional parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party, etc banked upon the respective castes cultivated and catered by them. Such groups held their respective parties in reverence and voted religiously in favour of them in blocks. The allegiance of the voters to their party was ultimate and political parties in turn catered to the meanest interests of such groups in order to keep their voting base cemented. Such segmented political groups were known as ‘Vote Bank’.

The vote bank politics has long dominated the political discourse of the post-independence India and has guided the behaviors of the established political parties towards the process of electioneering. The political parties, accused of manipulating policies to accommodate narrow goals of dominant interests groups, have been long criticized and ridiculed for designing their political manifestos with the aim to comfort the moods of their respective vote banks. So long the politicians kept these specific segments well-humored, the latter remained loyal and returned huge political windfalls to the politicians. The whole decade of the 1990’s that saw the politics of Ram Mandir and caste-based reservations, was dominated by the vote bank politics. Here, the politicians had the last laugh. They won or lost but their vote bank remained intact; people never ditched their ideological masters.

Come the new millennium and many things changed in Indian politics. The restructuring of the economy and the changes in the policies during the early 1990’s took time in taking roots and by the next decade results had started flowing. The economy expanded, jobs started rolling in, opportunities opened up and development came to stay. The IT industry led the India-story from the front, and using the energy and talent of the youth, became the powerful engine of development. The young generation became the face of the change and through its dominant influence in society, unleashed the youth culture in India defined by individual freedom and personal choices; the youth was no longer prepared to run behind pseudo- ideologies and blind legacies. It had largely freed itself from the ideological bondages of early decades.

This trend had a telling effect on politics. Politicians started talking of development sweeping their older agenda under the carpet. Newer breed of politicians emerged who made development their mantra and pursued the goals of governance with ruthless zeal. Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Nitish Kumar and even Sheila Dixit became the new role models and had people swooning for them. The common man had well understood that his future was hitched only to economic expansions and growth. The resurgent India had taken recourse to a single-ideology – the ideology of development.

Those politicians who talked of development and growth – by preference or strategy – were rewarded handsomely. But, those who failed to keep their ears to the ground were made to lick dust. Those old-school veterans, who refused to dance to the tunes of the emerging times, were pushed to irrelevance. The vote banks had crumbled. Its pieces, each written with the sad story of a failed politics, lied strewn all around the old warhorses sitting in opposition.

But, the story begins form here. The common man has now understood the power of his being; he’s tasted the power of a master. Thus, he has grown restless. He wants results – tangible results – within the promised time. He frets at delays and grumbles at failures. Today, a politician can’t expect to be given a long rope. If promise, deliver within time; else, make way.

The common man has grown smarter. He has become opportunist. Today, the common man is no one’s eternal enemy, no one’s perpetual friend; only its interests are eternal. It has no allegiance. The people of Delhi, who had given all the seven seats to the BJP in the parliamentary elections just nine months back, changed allegiance and handed down the BJP its worst electoral defeat in the Delhi assembly elections. 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 whatever 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, in Delhi in 2015 he found Arvind Kejriwal offering more. Hence, he turned for him lock stock and barrel. This is smart politics. Such people’s opportunism 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. If you deliver you’ll be loved; if you fumble you’ll be kicked hard in the teeth. And, no mercy for big names! Many big names have been thrown off to a place of oblivion by the people in recent past. Hence, the Delhi elections, which sits pretty top on the series of similarly concluded elections, tell the political class one thing – don’t fool the people and don’t mess up with their expectations. The same holds true for Arvind Kejriwal as well. The euphoria generated and the bonhomie created has heightened expectations of the masses which will act as a double-edged sword. It can cut both ways.

The politicians have long played politics with the people. Now, it’s people’s turn to play politics with the politicians. The common man has long been cheated in politics. Now, he’s understood well how to get his due back. Now, politics is the last resort of a common man. Is it the end of the vote-bank politics in India?

Krishna Kumar@ThoughtPourri 2015

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