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Bihar's Message To BJP: Reboot Or Get Booted Out

08/11/2015 4:23 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah (R) talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a BJP National Council meeting at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on August 9, 2014. Leaders of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party called on followers to gear up for key state elections in order to extend the Hindu nationalist movement's grip on the country. AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN (Photo credit should read RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

There was too much at stake for India in Bihar. When was the last time a state election had become so important for the entire country?

Modi became - no, Modi made himself - the face of this election and RSS brought its agenda to the centrestage of this election.

While experts may take time and yet not succeed in finding out why people voted for the Nitish Kumar-led Maha Gathbandhan, there's one clear takeaway from the results - people rejected the agenda that the right wing was seeking to legitimise through the ballot box.

BJP lost in all the five phases. Let us analyse the critical turning points in the Bihar election:

1) More than the Dadri killing and the carefully tailored comments on it by leaders belonging to 50 shades of saffron, it was the Prime Minister's long silence which mattered. And even when the PM spoke - perhaps compelled by the President's note of caution - he ensured to keep beef politics on top of the agenda by attacking Lalu Prasad Yadav's beef comment.

2) Outrage against intolerance by artists, intellectuals, scientists, historians, film-makers, corporate honchos was arrogantly dismissed by the articulate Arun Jaitley. Others labeled the 'Award Wapsi' as the outrage of 'Lutyens' Mafia' against a subaltern who had made it big.

Bihar is one of the most politically exposed states in the country. The state showed that subaltern is what subaltern does. And a subaltern does not just mean a typical son of the soil who thinks and speaks in the mother tongue, but a subaltern also understands the inclusive ethos of the soil. The current narrative shows that a subaltern can be as liberal as a Lutyens-obsessed Jaitley can be regressive in his Goebbelsian defence of intolerance.

3) Mohan Bhagwat's open expression of intent against caste-based reservations was important. It got completely interpreted in a different perspective when voters juxtaposed the comment with the dog analogy of BJP minister of state General VK Singh.

4) Narendra Modi brought in religion-based reservation when the issue was not on the agenda of any political party. Whatever his intention, that speech was meant to polarise voters.

5) Amit Shah's widely debated comment on 'crackers in Pakistan on MGB victory' was an endorsement of the RSS agenda. The comment cleared any doubt people may have had on BJP's agenda for the elections. Where was 'development' in this brand of the campaign?

Once the question of his leadership was internally settled, Narendra Modi had it too easy in his run up to 2014. The Congress-led UPA2 had made it very easy for anyone who was ready to be the face of the opposition.

Every time they face aggressive opponents, the over-rated Modi-Shah combine bites dust. It happened in Delhi and it has happened again in Bihar.

The post-2014 Narendra Modi reminds me of the pre-1997 Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- both good just at crowd pulling and not at vote pulling.

Modi has campaigned so much that the law of diminishing returns is in play now where his ability to win states for the BJP is concerned. People love oratorical skills of those who are seeking power. From those in power, people expect performance. Next time Modi steps out to campaign, whether abroad or in India, he must first deliver something and then talk about it.

By sending both the Giriraj Singh and the Owaisi schools of political polarisation packing, Bihar has lessons for pollsters and politicians, pundits and punters.

There are elections in critical states next year. The results of Bihar offer this one last chance for Narendra Modi to pull his government out of the clutches of the RSS.

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