Massive mandate, big task
Lalu meets waterloo, Paswan redundant
Bihar may not have Opposition leader
Amit Kumar Pandey
The mother of the world’s first democracy has done it again. The Bihar electorate created a history. They not only voted back Nitish Kumar-led NDA to power but also mauled Lalu Prasad and Ramvilas Paswan to the extent that new Vidhan Sabha may be denied a recognised leader of the Opposition.
The National democratic Alliance (NDA) of Janata Dal-United and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) got 94 per cent assembly seats, bagging 215 of 243. Not only that. The yesterday’s ‘raja’ (king) Lalu Prasad met his waterloo and could win only 22 seats and Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP shrunk to mere three seats.
Bihar has once again emerged as a torch-bearer for the country and charted out a new course for politics and governance. The 1977 crusade had changed the nation’s political course of governance and 2010 voting pattern has given a new message: ‘Perform and get people’s mandate’.
This ‘unprecedented’ mandate has, however, cast massive task of accelerating the pace of development to rebuild a new Bihar. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has himself admitted this ‘responsibility’ and said “the people have given a positive vote for good governance and peace and progress”. The biggest electoral message, Nitish said, “is that the days of caste politics and empty talks are over. It holds important lessons for the entire country on politics that needs to be practised”.
Full credit for the astounding NDA victory goes to Nitish Kumar, who by his political acumen and administrative capability managed to ‘obliterate’ the man, who had such a powerful stranglehold over Bihar politics. Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi too deserves praise for ably supporting the Chief Minister on the political pitch and making the BJP toe the Nitish line. This strategy systematically countered Lalu on the all fronts and relied on the slogan of good governance. To counter Lalu-Paswan’s grip on caste politics he crafted his own alliance and wooed Mahadalits (extreme backward castes). Fifty per cent reservation in panchayati raj system and local bodies for women was his trump card. Some ten per cent more woman electorate came out to vote. In rural areas of Bihar, where there is large-scale male migration to other states, women have come to play a more decisive role. They even outnumbered male voters. Improved law and order situation and deployment of para-military force by the Election Commission made the woman bid to come out and vote easy.
Soft-spoken Nitish Kumar could even bring around upper caste voters, who had grown suspicious of him on the Bataidari Act. Even Muslims voted for both JD-U and BJP. The electorate also gave credit to the NDA government for re-activating the bureaucrats. In the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi era the Chief Minister’s residence was the only centre of power. Today the state Secretariat is back in the saddle. IAS and BAS officials formulate and frame the development projects for the Cabinet nod.
Independents play spoilsport
In terms of electoral statistics, the NDA polled over 38.8 per cent votes, some 2.7 per cent more than 2005 polls, but its tally of seats surged by 44 per cent. On the other hand, the RJD-LJP tie-up vote percentage fell by nine from 34.6 per cent in 2005 elections to 25.7 per cent in this election. Large presence of Independents and smaller parties also helped the NDA to garner unprecedented majority in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha. There were 2,246 candidates -almost 10 per seat -who fought as independents or as candidates of smaller parties. They, however, could win only eight seats, but polled 27.3 per cent (more than the votes polled by RJD-LJP) and thus managed to spoil the show for the main opposition parties.
The decision of the Congress party to go it alone in Bihar and contest all 243 seats on its own made it even better for the ruling alliance. In 2005, Congress contested only 50 seats when it fought the elections in an alliance with RJD-LJP. This time the Congress got only four seats against nine last time. A consolation point for the Congress, however, is that its vote percentage surged from six in 2005 to 8.4 in this poll.
Votes for the ruling combine may have poured in from all sections, but the most palpable support came from the extremely backward castes that account for 26 per cent of the state’s electorate and the weaker sections among Muslims (Pasmanda group), who were wooed through various measures such as appointment of Urdu teachers, raising boundaries of graveyards and vocational courses under centrally-sponsored Hunar scheme. Muslims account for 18 per cent of the electorate.