Oh! Caste Cast Votes…
Now that the cat is out of the bag, the BJP strategists have to introspect in a deeper sense. Despite having a strong confidence to win the Bihar Test, the Narendra Modi phenomenon could not work. The massive rallies of the Prime Minister failed to yield results. Ultimately, the caste factor was the sole issue to counter the development agenda and tall personality of Narendra Modi. Like last Lok Sabha elections the high-tech social media failed to convince the Biharis. The blue-eyed boys of Modi who worked tooth and nail round the corner to fine-tune election strategies, finally had to bite the dust. The Lalus (once upon a time ardent followers of Lalu Prasad) finally chose to follow the Bihari voice, not outsiders. The secular media is once again in an upbeat mood to rap the mentors of Modi, and that is quite obvious with a conspicuous conspiracy. In Madhya Pradesh Congress lost elections to the BJP few years back from Diggi Raja on the issue of Bijli, Sadak and Pani and caste factor had taken a back seat there. Bihar is also facing a Bimaru syndrome, many lower and high standard Biharis are earning outside the state due to lack of work and facilities. Still development agenda could not click. So, somewhere lies the catch point that Modi and his strategists have to find and tell. After BJP’s debacle in Delhi election one is still waiting to see the measures for strengthening the party organisation. As said when a big tree falls, earth shakes, so when Modi is defeated then situation demands analysis and action.
The Modi loyalists were quick enough to declare that the Bihar poll result was not a verdict on the Prime Minister. It was known that whatever the Patna outcome would be, the Lok Sabha numbers would remain unchanged, however Modi’s stature and image have been considerably diminished. The trend that began in Delhi early this year has now consecrated into a new, definite mood. But this does not bide well for the nation at all. Modi’s image as a national and transformational leader has taken a bad beating.
Post the 2014 victory, Modi became a national hero and the citizens felt that he could be trusted to take life-and-death decisions and had the critical capacity to strike a balance between short-term advantages and long-term interests. In the initial months, Modi had both trust and moral licence. He picked up a broom, led the nation to clean our streets.
Two months before the Bihar elections, Modi announced a whopping Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for the state. He sent his top-shot ministers for campaigning and he addressed thirty rallies. The slugfest between a popular and powerful prime minister, still exulting in the glow of his landslide victory fifteen months ago, and a charismatic chief minister and uncouth ally was a free for all. BJP chief Amit Shah left no stone unturned to win Bihar elections and he is a true loyalist to follow His Master’s voice. But in vain, it looks like that a new method is adopted in the BJP to give a new look to the party and to forget the traditional systems and strategies. Change is always welcome, but at what cost?
While a victory would not have changed the numbers in Rajya Sabha in a meaningful manner, it would have certainly given him more credibility to push the reform process with a renewed vigour. Post Bihar, that advantage is clearly lost, something that economists and political analysts had pointed out. This defeat could act as a major turn off for the investors, who are eagerly looking at the continuity of the reform process under the Modi government. The stock exchanges reflected the mood the next day.
Investors and economy watchers wanted the BJP to win in Bihar, since the party is desperate to improve its strength in the Rajya Sabha, where its weak position has created major roadblocks in getting some of the critical reforms passed. The Bihar loss will now likely push that majority beyond the end of Modi’s term in 2019.
The challenge for Modi is to take the process forward despite the defeat. The government’s push on the financial inclusion front, creation of a social security network, roll-out of direct benefit transfer and overhauling the financial sector structure, has been seen as critical steps in the overall reform progress. The NDA government can certainly claim its due, but most of it was due to the lower crude and commodity oil prices, which have helped to ease a significant part of the burden on India’s import bill and inflation worries.
Now there is a feeling among the public that the NDA’s domestic policies have been a failure to take care of the lower and middle class people. The price index, including that of agricultural commodities has been rising, making life difficult for the common man. The profits are going into the pockets of hoarders and black marketers and the farmer suicides have reached tidal proportions. The tall claims over recovery of the black money have become an embarrassment, and termed by the Party President Amit Shah as a metaphorical election jumla. The Bihar defeat can have a cathartic effect on the party. Modi will now be compelled to get rid of the deadwood. He will also have to listen to the voices of sanity, the veterans and the sidelined leaders who have nurtured the party all the years. Modi has to revamp his team and put down the loudmouths and hotheads in the party. The people of India are ready to give him a long rope and more time to show results.