Senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Manoj K Jha speaks to The Hindu about what went wrong for the Mahagatbandhan in the present Assembly elections.
The difference in vote share between the MGB [Mahagatbandhan] and the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] is merely 0.03%. Where do you think the former MGB fell short?
Even though our electoral system is such that, to an extent, vote share becomes secondary as compared to the winning of each and every particular constituency by being first past the post. In these elections, if you have noted, there is a mere vote difference of approximately 13,000 votes between the total votes achieved by the NDA and the MGB in total, which converted to a difference of 15 seats, some of them with very thin margin.
Even then, we [Mahagathbandhan] were able to increase our vote share very significantly. That shows people voted beyond caste affiliations and voted against the present government. It not only silences those analysts who are reducing electoral results to merely caste calculations. Our own party’s base has widened considerably and has reached much deeper in various sections of society, giving more credibility and leading to strong trust between the party and the people.
The RJD's performance comes in the face of 15-years of anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar, do you still think that you fought well enough?
The most impressive aspect of the RJD’s performance lies in the fact that we, as a party, began and ended our campaign on the issues that were deeply associated with the demands and grievances of the people of Bihar. We raised and remained steadfastly on the issues of jobs, employment, education, colleges, sports, equal salary for equal work, wage increment, bringing industries, improving the lives of our farmers, ensuring safety, security and well-being of women. We opposed various kinds of communal campaigning. We ignored personal attacks on the party leadership. It was as close to a model electoral campaign in India as any party can ever reach. This is the reason why we were able to muster the support of different social groups.
Considering the Congress’s performance, was it wise for the RJD to allot 70 seats to them?
Questions like this are an afterthought, which can only be imagined post facto but cannot be executed in the past. We wanted to maintain cohesion within the alliance and we were largely successful during the campaign in this regard.
But the RJD had a better coordination with the CPI (ML) than the Congress. Wouldn’t it have been better to give them more space?
Again, this is a speculative question to which there cannot be a definite answer. Too many complicated factors go into the making of alliances. But a party always learns from the dynamics of making and unmaking of alliances, and of course, from election outcomes. The MGBwas all about the fight against taking the electorate for granted, against impending dangers to democracy, institutions and the very fabric of our society.
Both your ex-allies, Jitan Ram Manjhi and Mukesh Sahani, have performed well. Does the RJD regret not accommodating them?
Both left the MGB on their own. We wanted to accommodate them respectfully. In alliance, there should be ample space for reasonableness when it comes of seat-sharing as well as accepting the allocation. We were and are always in favour of welcoming the subaltern groups and parties to fight against the BJP and the JD(U).
The MGB did very well in the first phase of the poll. What went wrong in the next two phases?
The BJP vigorously campaigned for polarising the voters on caste and religion issues but our overall performance remained good as we fought this election on the people centric issues and we have a vision for each and every section of society and for our State.
Do you share the ongress's view that the AIMIM [All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen] was a ‘vote katua’ party that aided the BJP?
In a democracy, each party or individual is free to contest and the RJD takes this spirit of contesting election by anyone in a positive spirit, as it strengthens the democracy. Our organisation remains strong in those areas and we will further our party’s reach with a positive and constructive message that reflects a vision of inclusive society.