The Bihar election results that far out-stripped the Bharatiya Janata Party's expectations have given the party a huge boost of morale.
As party workers stuffed ‘laddoos' into the mouths of senior leaders, and amid general jubilation, it was felt that the results would help the party find new partners ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said it was a victory of “meritorious leadership over dynastic politics” and his counterpart in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, felt that the unprecedented results indicated that the people favoured good governance.
Mr. Jaitley's message was that the manner in which a National Democratic Alliance government met the challenge of governance in a long-neglected State and given the people “hope over despair” proved the only alternative to the Congress at the Centre was not some third front conglomeration, but the NDA. To that extent, he felt that the Bihar victory brightened the NDA's prospects.
Ahead of the results, many party leaders from Bihar were unsure of how big a dent the Congress would make on its upper-caste support base, but as the election progressed it became clear that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was making a wave. He had not only given the people governance and, with it, the hope for a new future but had also done his caste arithmetic well, brining together a social coalition of backward castes (minus the Yadavs), the Most Backward Classes, the Maha Dalits, a good section of Muslims (despite having the BJP as a coalition partner) and, above all, women whom he was able to attract through government schemes for the girl child.
The section in the BJP that had been unhappy with Mr. Kumar for laying out his own agenda, thus keeping the BJP agenda out of the governance framework, was silent on Wednesday, in the face of a massive victory not only for the Janata Dal (United) but also for the BJP whose tally was touching the 90-seat mark as against 55 in the last Assembly.
One leader said Ms. Swaraj's comment that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's magic worked only in Gujarat and not in the rest of India proved right, for the BJP had done so well after keeping Mr. Modi out of the campaign. Mr. Kumar's gambit of being forthright in telling his ally that Mr. Modi would be a liability — and the BJP swallowing that — also proved the right strategy, said a party leader.
Mr. Jaitley said the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Jan Shakti Party and the Congress had relied too heavily on ‘parivarwad,' or dynastic politics. The Congress could not have hoped to gain anything by relying only on Rahul Gandhi's campaign, when its leadership in Bihar had no recognisable “face,” party leaders felt. The JD(U)-BJP alliance had grass root leaders in Mr. Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi, who is set to get the same position again.
Observers for meeting
On Wednesday, the BJP Parliamentary Board decided to send three observers to Patna on Thursday for a meeting of the BJP Legislature Party at which Sushil Modi will be formally elected. They are Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Dharmendra Pradhan. Later, there will be a joint meeting of the BJP and JD(U) Legislature Parties that will once again elect Mr. Nitish Kumar the leader.
Keywords: Bihar election results