Abraham Lincoln's articulation of the concept of democracy -- of the people, for the people, by the people -- seems to have strongly reverberated across Bihar. The mandate of the Biharis has brought huge embarrassment to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA alliance. Embarrassment for several reasons, foremost being PM Narendra Modi assuming unto himself the task of leading the election campaign. This entailed holding more than 30 high-profile rallies in the state, presenting the Bihar package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore in the perfect style of an auctioneer, engaging in politics of communal divisiveness and launching a number of personal attacks on his opponents. Modi mocked Nitish Kumar for consulting an astrologer, saying in a rally, "Does Bihar need mantra-tantra or democracy?" Never mind that noted astrologer Bejan Daruwalla revealed that Modi had consulted him at some point in the past.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat framed the policy of reservation as a policy of appeasement for the Dalits, giving no acknowledgement to the historical injustices meted out to the community, nor solid plans for their upliftment. This, of course, did not deter BJP members from pointing fingers at their ally Jitan Ram Manjhi for not being able to garner the 25 lakh votes of his Mahadalit community.
"[T]he public can be fooled by false promises once, but in an age of a super-active social media, they can be very unforgiving once they realise that they have been duped."
Amidst the growing concern over rising intolerance and Hindu hardliners spreading hatred without any restrictions, the Bihar elections saw the BJP raising the sensitive issue of cow slaughter and beef consumption in the hope that the resulting polarisation would work in their favour. Ultimately, the beef politics completely backfired and Modi's promises of growth and development remained on the backburner. Amit Shah, aka, the Chanakya of the BJP, who held around 80 poll rallies, lost to his own political strategy of micro-managing the state and sidelining leaders like RK Singh and Shatrughan Sinha. Pakistan was unnecessarily brought into the election campaign when Shah said crackers would be burst in celebration across the border if BJP lost the polls. While otherwise Pakistan would not have cared about the results, Shah's comments certainly generated curiosity, and the post-verdict reactions saw a mix of ridicule and derision of the BJP in India as well as Pakistan.
This crucial election raises the question about whether it is time for the overarching guardians of the BJP, the RSS, to re-think their decision on the current President of the BJP or let the latter function as a political party without the "religious" label. The leadership must now realise that the innocent, hungry, unemployed and disempowered people of the state demand action and implementation of the big dreams that Narendra Modi showed them while campaigning for himself as the Prime Minister and for his party in Bihar. A thorough post-mortem of their loss is essential for the remaining three and a half years of the BJP government, a period which will also see state elections in Assam, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. The UP elections are particularly instrumental in deciding the BJP's strength in the Rajya Sabha, to which the state sends the 31 members. It becomes more important given the fact that the Modi government has several pending bills (including the 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill or the Women's Reservation Bill) and plans for India's growth and development, the passage of which would require the support of the Upper House.
Although the landslide victory for the Grand Alliance seems to have given a fitting reply to the aggressive Modi-Shah duo, I sincerely wish the promised package of 1.25 lakh crore rupees to the people of Bihar came from the Union government's sincere development intentions for Bihar and not as a lowly political gimmick. It is an opportune time for the PM to engage in serious corrective actions and work earnestly towards the concept of genuine cooperative federalism that he had advocated in the near past.
To conclude, echoing the widespread sentiments following BJP's debacle in Bihar, the public can be fooled by false promises once, but in an age of a super-active social media, they can be very unforgiving once they realise that they have been duped. The Bihar electoral results are solid proof of this.