22 May 2024 08:03 PM



Bihar Defeats the Politics of Hate


NEW DELHI: In a bruising elections, carried out over 5 phases and 3 weeks, the people of Bihar have spoken. They have handed a resounding defeat to the BJP and its allies. They have rejected BJP's attempts to polarise the elections on communal lines, trying to bring cow slaughter and beef eating into the elections and dubbing all those who vote against BJP as agents of Pakistan.

All this spearheaded by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the BJP President. At the end, the verdict could not be more damning: the BJP has secured less than one-fourth of the seats, with the Grand Alliance -- Mahagathbandhan -- of Lalu Yadav's RJD and Nitish Kumar led JDU getting more than two-thirds. It was not a close elections as was predicted by various pollsters, but a crushing defeat of Modi and his party.

The results of are even more striking if we compare them to the Parliamentary Elections of 2014. From a BJP lead in 173 Assembly segments, they could secure less than 60. It was not just electoral arithmetic; the JDU-RJD-Congress combination polled much more than their 2014 numbers, while the BJP figures dropped by more than 6% from their 2014 figure.

Bihar would not have become such a crucial election for the country, except that BJP made it a virtual referendum on Modi's policies. I do not remember any PM ever in the history of Indian elections, conducting 30 election meetings in a state election. The posters in Bihar were all about Modi, till the third phase. It then dawned on them that Modi versus Nitish projection was only helping the Bihari versus Bahari campaign of the Mahagathbandhan. By then, it was too late to find a suitable local counter to Nitish Kumar.

Why did BJP go for broke in Bihar and stake PM Modi's image for a state elections? Why did they communalise the elections in Bihar to such an extent? Was it the feeling that having failed to control the media, its sole achievement for the last 16 months, they needed a victory to refurbish their image? Did they think that Delhi was an aberration and therefore Bihar was a safe bet for Modi? Was it only the rude shock of the first two phases, and the sense of impending defeat that caused them to run such a divisive and communal campaign? Of course, PM Modi has run similar campaigns in Gujarat, where also he brought in Pakistan into the state elections. But to talk about Pakistan celebrating BJP defeat in Bihar, and having its election advertisements being banned by the Election Commission is a new low in Indian politics.

My sense is that the BJP and its leadership has always been divorced from the people of India. They have their communalised base, which believes in its theories of Hindu Rashtra and regards anybody that does not agree with its views, as an enemy. For them politics is not about taking people along, but one of converting India to a Hindu Rashtra – by hook or by crook. It is this mind-set that makes it difficult for the BJP to comprehend that the bulk of the Indian people are decent, tolerant, secular human beings. For the BJP's core constituency, hatred is a way of life. Dinanath Batra exemplifies this best when he says that his agenda is to saffronise education. Extend this to saffronise every sphere of life, you have the BJP agenda. This is not a lunatic fringe as the media believes, but very much at the core of the BJP.

Amit Shah and Narendra Modi believe that if they strike the right chord, the Indian people will endorse Hindu Rashtra. For them, the only task therefore is to have the right messaging, and the rest will follow. That is why, when the found that the Development slogan was not working in Bihar -- the BJP having nothing to show for it in the last 16 months -- they fell back to their inner belief in divisive politics.

Has India reached a cross-road? Has the voice of the writers, artists, scientists on the need for tolerance, finally broken through the manufactured media consensus or what Arun Shourie called, managing the headlines? Is Delhi and Bihar now going to be repeated in other states?

While this may be too early to tell, there is no doubt that Delhi and now Bihar, has changed the political discourse. No government has lost as much goodwill in as short a time as the Modi led BJP dispensation. The problem for all of us is not that BJP will go by the next elections, but how much damage they will do to the social fabric of this country.