By Dr Ahmed Raza
The continuation of Nitish Kumar led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Bihar with an absolute majority, winning 125 seats, three more than the halfway mark needed for a victory amounts to be a functional mandate rather than ‘people’s mandate’ for the existing chief minister as Janata Dal (United) could emerge as 3rd largest political party despite of 15 years of experience as chief minister in the state. The detail analysis of poll verdicts of NDA alliance clearly points out towards incumbency for the NDA and anti incumbency for Nitish Kumar as the aggressive campaigning of NDA remained intact in portraying the existing chief minister as a sign of good governance in Bihar whereas JDU could manage only 43 seats. On the other hand, Mahagathbandhan (MGB) chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Prasad Yadav emerged with 75 seats as a single largest party despite of hatred and revulsion campaigning against the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Although, government formation in the coalition politics always happens to be a game of figures, statistical manipulation, pre and post alliances and political compromises, hence, leaves no scope for respect to the ‘people’s mandate’ at all. The existing governments in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar could be categorically known as governments with functional mandate rather than people’s mandate as people never voted for their exiting chief minister or ruling political parties. This article tries to draw what the factors led to the continuation of Nitish Kumar as chief minister of Bihar and Tejashwi Yadav missed the race despite of having high popularity.
Negative campaigning during lockdown
One of the most important factors associated with low performance of JDU could be considered a hatred campaigning against the Nitish Kumar government for his Covid-19 management, migration during lockdown and unemployment. For the first time, India happened to be an eye witness of experiencing issues of migration and employability while nationwide lockdown is mandated forcefully due to Covid-19. Hence, Nitish Kumar became the centre point of litmus test as well as criticisms as large numbers of labourers of the state were found in streets, roads and tracks en route to home after losing their job. Such unfortunate incidences on account of state’s failure due to lack of coordination among the machineries outraged a huge controversy between the centre and the states led to defame the Nitish Kumar government. Although, a few of the incidences during lockdown also appeared as a backfire for Nitish Kumar when he did not initiate to bring back to students, workers and others, following home minister’s guidelines and safety protocol. Mismanagement and lack of coordination among the agencies during nationwide lockdown have been politically used by the MGB alliance in order to tarnish Kumar’s image as anti poor, restricting JDU to 43 seats.
Older versus younger leader
Convincing youth voters by portraying Tejashwi Yadav as youth leader amounted to be the leading factor for JDU’s low performance as Nitish Kumar himself tried to show his seniority by way of seeking sympathy during campaigning. A large number of youth-driven election manifestos such as 10 lac government jobs, corruption free governance etc helped voters to decide Tejashwi Yadav as leader as concern of employment happened to be the MGB’s focus during campaigning. On the other hand, people did not show enthusiasm to Nitish Kumar for the continuation to the post of chief minister on account of breaking the alliance from RJD after 18 months of government. Returning to the NDA alliance for political interest in midterm have brought down the credibility and integrity of the JDU whereas Tejashwi Yadav could win enough sympathy of his single handed fight against the large numbers of BJP stalwart leaders. At the same time, Tejashwi Yadav is well versed with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s political legacy in term of crowd pooling and social engineering, which helped RJD to accommodate its vote-banks whereas Nitish Kumar wished to win the election only by showing his model of governance as well as national agenda set by the core BJP leadership.
BJP’s changing equations with JDU
Contesting election under leadership of Nitish Kumar for BJP became a matter of compulsion keeping in mind the 2015 poll verdict against the NDA without JDU. On the one hand, BJP could not have much confident over Narendra Modi’s dynamism, popularity and party’s most populous national achievements such as namely the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, abrogation of Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir Re-organization Act, the historical verdict in favor of Ram Mandir and Constitutional Amendment Act 2019 etc. On the other hand, the political stature of Nitish Kumar seems to be synonymous with JDU which always makes his candidature for the post of chief minister as a prerequisite condition for any alliance. Other than this, contesting election without JDU for BJP could be more fatal as BJP-JDU have been ruling the state for 15 years as the symbol of good governance over RJD’s 15 years of maladministration. At the same time, targeting the ruling JDU for backwardness to the state would prove a disastrous for BJP as it may also polarize the voters towards the MGB as BJP exposed its performance. Therefore, JDU emerged as the third party after the poll verdicts as there has been an anti incumbency factor for Nitish Kumar whereas BJP could accommodate its traditional vote-base.
Lok Janshakti Party effect
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) effect has also been one of the leading factors for restricting JDU to 43 seats as election campaigning of the LJP moved around the anti-Nitish Kumar, making full of effort to tarnish his image of anti-development and anti-youth. Appreciating BJP for symbol of development and maintaining the status quo for MGB happened to be the sole campaigning of LJP, which dented JDU votes up to 20 -25 seats of win-ability. On the one hand, LJP remained intact in creating confusion among the NDA voters on account of portraying Nitish Kumar as hurdles for Bihar’s development, whereas Modi’s as a sign of development. Such puzzlement could not be openly exposed by the central leadership of BJP, which led to under-performance of JDU.
The continuation of Nitish Kumar as chief minister of Bihar after the 2020 poll verdict must be viewed as a political commitment of a pre – alliance of NDA rather than as a chief minister with people’s mandate. Although, he is always credited with a symbol of good governance of Bihar due to his structural and functional administrative reforms made after dethroning RJD regime in 2005. Therefore, the coming five year period for JDU would be full of challenges in terms of providing good governance, employability and expediting infrastructural work as BJP with more numbers of ministerial positions will fulfill its own agenda set by central party leaderships of Delhi.
(Author is Assistant Professor, MANUU, Hyderabad & Project Director (MRP ICSSR), political commentator, author and columnist. The views expressed are the personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])