When elections were declared in Bihar, nobody thought Bihar would give such a nail-biting finish to the process. Indeed, there was a widespread anti-incumbency against incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar which reflects in JDU’s performance as well. Still, perhaps the Jungle Raj rhetoric, widespread campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and growing acceptance of his party amongst the masses of Bihar saved the day for the NDA. This is one of the strangest elections that I have witnessed ever, where on the one hand in an alliance the party which heads the government gets badly hit by anti-incumbency, but on the other hand, its ally not only does well but is also able to increase its tally significantly.
While we analyse the performance of the RJD-led MahagathbandPhan, it is evident that this combo committed two big blunders. First, they allocated 70 seats to an undeserving and depleting Congress party; secondly, they underestimated the BJP by giving most of the seats which they considered as difficult to the Congress to contest and surprisingly, in most of such seats the Congress had a direct faceoff with the formidable BJP which gave the saffron party a breathing space. Eventually, India’s grand old party turned out to be a liability for both, the RJD and the Mahagathbandhan, securing just 19 seats in their tally, not enough to boost Tejashwi Yadav’s efforts.
Apart from the Congress blunder, RJD faltered at one more place by allowing the Muslim-Yadav versus the Rest narrative to dominate people’s minds, and thus, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP ensured that the memories of Jungle Raj continued to haunt the masses during their campaign.
As far as the emergence of Asaddudin Owaisi’s AIMIM is concerned, it hit the final nail in the coffin of the Mahagathbandhan by splitting the Muslim votes from the Mahagathbandhan and created confusion in the minds of Muslim electorates of the State, especially in the Seemanchal region and caused a severe dent in Mahagathbandhan’s electoral prospects in this part of Bihar.
Interestingly, RJD veteran Abdul Bari Siddiqui’s recent jibe against PM Modi, where he infamously stated, ‘PM Narendra Modi has forgotten that he is no more a dangai CM but the PM’, not only cost him his seat but also heavily dented his party’s prospects in the Mithila region and the traditional bastion of neighbouring Tirhut region. This reminds me about Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s ‘Maut Ka Saudagar’ jibe against Modi during the 2007 Gujarat assembly polls which cost Congress dearly.
Mahagathbandhan can console themselves as they improved their performance in the Bhojpur –Magadh region significantly because RJD and CPI-ML were able to transfer their votes to each other successfully. It would be interesting to see how long this bonhomie between the RJD and this ultra-left-wing political outfit is going to last, as the cadres of this outfit still blame RJD leader Shahabuddin for the assassination of their activist Chandrashekhar in 1997.
Last but not least, the grudging exit of HAM and VIP from the grand alliance too played the spoilsport for the Mahagathbandhan.