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Lessons from Bihar poll outcome

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and chief minister NItish Kumar

Elections to the state assembly in Bihar, which the country had been keenly watching, have produced a result, that at several moments during counting had even shown prospect of a hung assembly. At the time of writing this, i.e. when the initial edge of NDA gradually gave way to the grand alliance (mahaghatbandhan), a prediction has been impossible. Whatever the eventual outcome, when the RJD founder Lalu Prasad Yadav lies exhausted in jail, his son, the 31-year old new stalwart of the party Tejashwi Yadav has been raising Bihar's aspirations sky high and has become a new rising star. This youthful political leader, who made a scintillating campaign, has succeeded in making RJD the largest single party in the state. Congress, the second party in the grand alliance could not rise to the expectations of either the RJD which had given it given 70 seats to contest or of the people; which enabled the BJP-led allliance to wrest the upper hand. If the Congress had a dynamic leadership, the picture would have been quite different. At the same time, the relative success of the left constituents of the mahaghatbandhan, CPI (ML), CPI and CPM together has the potential to boost the morale of the secular sections. In Bihar, stymied for decades in the quagmire of caste politics, the steep rise in the seats of the CPI (ML), which can certainly claim to be a caste-free left force, heralds the rise of a new politics. The very retreat of erstwhile Naxalies from the path of riot and violence – that had inflicted serious damage to law and order – to parliamentary path was a positive change of course. The Communist party had significant influence in the state, but subsequently it lost its force and got reduced to a silent onlooker; ever since then it is only now that the party is blowing the trumpet of a come back much to the delight of the labour force as much as of the secular forces.

In a way, one major takeaway from the Bihar poll is the fall of chief minister Nitish Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal-U. Regardless of whether the dream of the former socialist leader with an eye on a third term as chief minister materialises or not, the poll results by no means give any cause for comfort to either him or his party. At a time when he and the BJP were sitting cosy that the threat of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav (whom both together had put in jail with the worst form of political vendetta) was wiped out for ever, his son Tejashwi captures the scene and the imagination of the youth. One who had turned an embodiment of opportunism, Nitish Kumar had once been a leader who had taken the initiative for opposition unity at the national level, thus sparking hopes of the entire secular India. When he formed the grand alliance in Bihar joining hands with the secular parties, he was able to become the chief minister on that platform as the leader of the largest party in the assembly in 2015. It was mid-way in that term that he fell out with Lalu Prasad Yadav and sought asylum overnight in the BJP camp, and then making his JD(U) a constituent of NDA. He also had a legacy of having resisted the entry of Narendra Modi in election campaign, even while in alliance with the BJP. Eventually, the cycle of history turned full circle and when Modi came in person and extolled the glory of his Ramrajya, Nitish had no option but to listen to it in silence. Thus the fall of his JD(U) can be seen as a nemesis for his deep betrayal of the religious minority that had for long queued up to vote him to power.

The grand alliance has been perceived as a model for the whole country and holds the potential to inspire secular India; if that happens under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav, it would be no mean achievement. No matter whether he wins the state election or not, the crux of the matter is to take on extreme fascism with tenacity. Perhaps the major challenge before the secular democratic segment of the country is that there is no leader in the picture who has the makings to do that. As for the minority Muslim community, with the justifiable grouse of being continually let down by secular parties, a new saviour has appeared in the political firmament in the form of Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which has been able to clinch five seats in Bihar. It is a matter to watch what the role of Owaisi and AIMIM will be in future Bihar.

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