Two-thirds majority for Nitish-Lalu Grand Alliance

BJP-led NDA bites the dust in bitterly fought Bihar elections; Chief Minister lives up to his reputation of being a ‘Chanakya’; RJD chief back from political wilderness, turns kingmaker

November 08, 2015 11:52 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 02:04 am IST - PATNA

As the Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad duo led the Grand Alliance on Sunday to a historic, thumping two-thirds majority, even reviving its junior partner, the Congress, the BJP-led NDA bit the dust — and the curtain came down on what must rate as one of the most bitterly fought Assembly elections in Bihar.

Conscious that this victory would resonate through the country, influencing politics in other parts, Chief Minister and JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar — composed but clearly moved by the extent of the mandate — said: “The Bihar 2015 poll will always be remembered as a milestone in the electoral politics of the State; it reflected the national mood.”

Mr. Kumar said the poll would be remembered as one where the “party at the Centre had put all its resources into an Assembly election.”

Party Positions 243/243

( BJP, LJP, HAM, RLSP)(JD(U), RJD, INC)(SP, JAP, AIMIM, Independent)
BJP +58
Source: ECI website

Lalu Prasad, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, has proved to be the kingmaker, providing both the mass support for the coalition and a sharp aggression at the stumps, countering Prime Minister Narendra Modi at every stage. Mr. Kumar lived up to his reputation of being a “Chanakya”: he retained his chief ministership, while helping old comrade Lalu Prasad return to the centre stage after many years in the political wilderness. In 1990, too, when Mr. Prasad became Chief Minister for the first time, Mr. Kumar’s role in that victory had earned him the sobriquet “Chanakya” of Bihar politics.

On Sunday evening, while the flamboyant Mr. Prasad, whose personal exit poll of 190 came closest to the results, threw open the gates of 10, Circular Road to the surging crowds, three houses down, the more reticent Mr. Kumar, after his press conferences, met party workers who milled around him, before walking onto the road outside. There he stood on a small wooden platform to accept more congratulations.

The decisive victory ensures that government formation will be smooth. Mr. Kumar said that first his party legislators would meet, and then all the coalition MLAs would meet to settle the issue of portfolios. To a question whether one of Mr. Prasad’s sons would be his Deputy Chief Minister, he said the press conference was not an appropriate forum to discuss the matter. The swearing-in ceremony is likely to be after Diwali.

At two post-victory press conferences, one at the RJD office followed by the other at the Chief Minister’s official residence, where the Congress’s Ashok Chowdhury, too, was present, Mr. Prasad underscored the fact that regardless of the numbers the two parties notched up, Mr. Kumar would be the Chief Minister.

Mr. Kumar called for an end to the bitterness, negativity and rancour that marked the election.

Mr. Kumar stressed that he intended to work with and respect the Opposition, despite its meagre tally. As for the Grand Alliance, he said, it was united by a common world view, an agreed programme of action and the desire to achieve consensus on all issues affecting the future of Bihar.

If the initial trends, thanks to the fact that the postal ballots were opened before the EVMs, favoured the BJP, leading its workers to celebrate prematurely, by 9.20 a.m. the trends reversed in favour of the grand coalition. It was then the turn of the workers of the JD(U), the RJD and the Congress to shout victory slogans, burst crackers and smear gulal on each other.

After the JD(U) and the BJP parted ways in June 2013, all eyes were on the Bihar Assembly election. It became a matter of prestige for both. Each looked for partners that would widen their social base; caste played a critical role in this election, but in the end, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the NDA’s charge, it became a referendum on his 16 months in power rather than on Mr. Kumar’s decade as Chief Minister.

Mr. Modi, who flew to Bihar for a record 26 times to address public meetings, and BJP president Amit Shah crafted the party’s strategy, dominating even the billboards. This gave the grand coalition an opportunity to portray them as baharis (outsiders), even as the BJP leaders and activists sulked, finding themselves on the margins.

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