By Arun Srivastava
The verdict of the by-polls depends on the exigencies and compulsions of political parties, especially the one in power. And if the politicians are to be believed, the results do not necessarily reflect the mood of the people. There is a general tendency to dismiss the by-poll verdict if it does not suit the ruling party. Leaders interpret the results so as to convince the people of its ideological and political commitments.
But for the BJP, every election, whether it is regular or by- election, has its own importance. A win is often interpreted as endorsement of the actions and policies of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After the emergence of Modi on the political arena of the country as the new symbol of the “changing India” every election is measured on the scale of popularity of Modi. Every election result is quite important for the BJP as according to the saffron brigade it reflects the public attitude and mood towards Modi. We have seen how the election results for the municipal and panchayat elections in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat were analysed and projected before the people.
Though the BJP had earlier suffered defeat in the by elections to Rajasthan, it did not substantially catch the imagination of the people as the subsequent elections to three state assemblies of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland provided a booster dose to the image of Modi. But the loss suffered in the three Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has virtually unmasked him and also his claim of providing good governance. Some BJP leaders may object to putting the blame on Modi for the defeat, but the fact cannot be denied that both Nitish Kumar and Yogi tried to use his name to ensure victory.
Like UP there was no alliance in Bihar. The RJD in fact fought the by-election to the Araria Lok Sabha seat on its own. What was spectacular was that it even won the Jehanabad assembly seat with an unprecedented huge margin. Ever since the by elections were announced the BJP and the media started writing the obituary of RJD and described Lalu’s son and opposition leader Tejashvi Yadav as a Lilliput who cannot face the might of the towering Modi and his BJP. But the same Lilliput has smashed his public and political image.
The state BJP stalwarts who till a day ahead of the results were heaping abuses on Tejashvi and describing him as political non-entity have been projecting the verdict as sympathy vote. They tried to dilute the defeat by saying that the Taslimuddin’s son won due to sympathy vote. Ever since Tejashvi emerged on the political scene of Bihar, BJP leader Sushil Modi launched an insinuation campaign against him. With the help of the CBI and ED, the BJP leaders framed him in many cases. It would not come as a surprise if more accusations and charges are levelled against him before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Bihar has found a challenger in the form of Tejashvi, so far a role played by Nitish.
Since Gorakhpur was represented by the UP chief minister Yogi it obviously got maximum importance and attention. But the fact of the matter is the RJD victory from Araria is more important than Gorakhpur. The entire campaign was launched and spearheaded by Tejashvi with his father Lalu in Jail. The verdict has also endorsed the popular wisdom that a Lalu in jail is more dangerous for BJP than a Lalu campaigning in the streets.
After Nitish joining hands with the BJP an impression was created by the JD(U) as well as BJP leaders that the forces committed to social justice have shifted their allegiance to the BJP and JD(U) alliance. But this result simply negates this rhetoric. The fact is Lalu Prasad is still the rallying point and public face of social justice notwithstanding his being charged as prime accused in the fodder scam. The Araria result also provides an insight into the shifting allegiance of the Dalits and most backwards castes, which were hypothetically the support base of Nitish. They have refused to join the saffron bandwagon. They have in fact spurned the overtures. In the post Nitish joining BJP scenario, they continue to remain with the RJD or other left parties. The result has exposed fissures in Nitish’s core constituency of Mahadalits and non-Yadav OBCs.
The peoples’ anger against Nitish and Modi is so acute that even the communal insinuations against the RJD candidates, especially in Araria by the BJP, could not salvage the situation for the party. Senior BJP leaders have been telling people that this defeat was not a referendum on the Nitish government. This in fact is a tactical move. They know that the moment the defeat Is accepted as the defeat of Nitish, the credibility and functioning of Modi will come under public scrutiny.
Former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi joining the Grand Alliance has undoubtedly added to the strength of the mahagathbandhan and has also played a role in rallying the Mahadalit votes in favour of the RJD candidates. Manjhi was quite candid in his assertion: “We had sensed it coming. The harassment of Dalits under the liquor law, and NDA vendetta politics were reflected in the Grand Alliance’s victory.” It is a fact that the feudal elements and upper caste landed gentry in recent times have unleashed a reign of terror against the Dalits. The victory of the BJP candidate from Bhabhua is testimony to this. Last year a number of killings of the Dalits and OBC took place in Rohtas and Bhabhua. Even the senior government officials who tried to tame the upper caste goons were arbitrarily transferred to other districts by the Nitish government.
Undeniably it is time of penance for Nitish. This victory had certainly boosted the prospects of a national alliance to take on the BJP in 2019. Lalu had long been talking about the need of the SP and the BSP coming together. Nevertheless these three results have sent a loud and clear message to the Congress; join hands or perish. Congress must come together with them in its own interest.
The UP and Bihar bypoll results also point to a new trend that runs counter to the social combine that the BJP had so successfully stitched in these two key Hindi heartland states: the coalition of non-Yadav communities. (IPA Service)
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