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What the Bihar verdict means for the country, for Bihar and for BJP

Tuhin A Sinha

Updated: November 10, 2015, 10:38 AM IST
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The Bihar election is bound to leave some long term repercussions for the country, the state as well as the BJP.

First let's consider its implications for the country.

With this verdict, it stands confirmed that in 2019 it will be the Nitish-Lalu-Mamata-Kejriwal combine and not Rahul Gandhi's Congress that will challenge Modi. In fact, while the verdict may have sounded alarm bells for the BJP, it actually has the obituary of the Congress written on it.

The impact of this verdict is likely to manifest itself in the state elections in UP and West Bengal. An energized so-called Third Front will give a tough fight to the BJP. Moreover, with the hopes of getting majority in the Rajya Sabha quashed, Modi is going to find it increasingly difficult to push key legislations.

However, Indian politics is replete with ironies. And while anti-Modi forces are going to grow by the day, over a period of time, their brazen opportunism will be hard to contain, making the combination grotesque and unstable. In the last two decades, Indian voters have proved that their voting patterns and considerations are different in Assembly elections vis-a vis the Lok Sabha elections. So while the so called Third Front might grow in strength, it is unlikely that the growth will have a direct bearing upon the Lok Sabha elections, unless there is a downfall in Modi government's performance from here.

In fact, this election verdict is likely to be a blessing in disguise for the Modi government. It will force him to act against non performing ministers. He can't live anymore with the perception: "Modi's intentions are good, but his ministers are not upto it." He will quickly have to find a team that can take him through 2019.

This verdict might make Modi initiate a change in approach as well. Stellar rhetoric on foreign soil isn't really working for the desi audience. A more grounded pro-poor image is the need of the hour.

It will be interesting to consider the implications of this verdict on Bihar and before we consider that, let me remind you that Lalu Prasad Yadav has been convicted in the fodder scam and is barred from contesting elections till 2024. So with such a man calling the shots in Bihar, crime and corruption are slated for a grand comeback. And Nitish for all his good intentions is bound to end up at the mercy of the RJD.

More significantly, this verdict would put the development agenda of the state on the backburner. It will reinforce caste as be all in the state's political discourse. Investors would be vary of coming to a state where one of the ruling parties enjoys the dubious distinction of unleashing a notorious ‘gunda raj' which drove people out of the state by the hordes.

Finally, the most significant learning notes from this verdict are for the BJP.

One, the party needs to do away with high decibel campaigns involving national leaders, more so when the performance of the central government is not at its peak.

Two, naming your CM candidate when you are taking on a strong CM helps. It did not work in Delhi because your choice was flawed. Not naming one in Maharashtra and Jharkhand helped because the CMs you were fighting against were anyway on their way out. But when you fight a strong CM, projecting a strong alternative invariably helps. Whether it had to be Sushil Modi or Dr Prem Kumar, had the name been decided well in advance, it would have helped the party.

Three, the party needs to deal firmly with its fundamentalist fringe. Every time Yogi Adiyanath or Sangeet Som utters some crap, it gives an easy opportunity for rivals to run down the entire party. If the party doesn't combat it now, it runs the danger of its own fringe killing the positive Digital India or Make In India campaigns.

Finally, the party and the government need significant changes. Modi has slogged really hard to be where he is. He can't allow himself to be let down by a mediocre team.

Many people celebrated the verdict with proclamations like "India won". I'm sure they must be fans of HD Dewegowda or IK Gujral coz that's the sort of leadership they want to see again in the country. I believe India will win eventually, once the opportunist so called third front soon starts destroying itself, propelled by its greed and absence of any ideological meeting ground. I am glad it had to happen now than closer to 2019.

India has to win eventually. It can't afford to lose.
First Published: November 9, 2015, 8:24 PM IST

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