Dal prices to campaigning style: Variables that make Bihar Assembly elections an enigma

Unquantifiable variables continue to make the Bihar election an enigma. Even after the conclusion of the fifth and final round of polls there’s no clarity on the voters’ mood. In the last two phases there was enough indication that polarization on religious lines had upset the consolidation of the OBCs to a large extent. The huge turnout in the last phase is seen as an indicator of mobilization on religious lines.

But that was not the trend evident in the other phases of the polls, which were equally important. For instance, the first and second phases were not influenced by religious emotions as the regions voting saw a clear consolidation on caste lines. Lalu Yadav played the Mandal card to the hilt to rope in extremely backward castes which hold the key to the victory.

For the first time the assembly elections in Bihar have thrown a unique situation where both the contenders for power are confident of their victory. In the Nitish Kumar camp the celebratory mood is already visible. “We started celebrating our victory immediately after the second phase and the rest is now a formality,” said a strategist.

Equally puzzling is the optimism in the BJP camp. “We are sure of winning this election,” said a Union minister who camped in Bihar for over one month to campaign in different parts of the state. The BJP’s optimism is pinned on the belief that people of the state would be averse to choosing an unstable government given the fragile nature of the grand coalition under Nitish Kumar.

 Dal prices to campaigning style: Variables that make Bihar Assembly elections an enigma

PTI image.

The RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance is certain of victory as it feels it has mobilized various caste groups under one umbrella and presented itself as the true protector of the backward classes’ interests. Going by reports from various corners of the state, the Grand Alliance had far greater traction among EBC voters than the BJP-led coalition.

However, the major hope for the alliance comes from the BJP’s inability to weave a narrative different from that of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At the same time, Nitish Kumar emerged as people’s most favoured candidate for chief minister, which implied that there was no anti-incumbency against the state government.

Apparently, the imponderables relating to caste and community are not that much indecipherable for psephologists and poll-analysts as the new factors which suddenly came up and upset the existing equations. Even top political leaders and experts on discerning trends are not confident about what weightage to be given to the sharp spurt in the prices of pulses. In a low economy like Bihar, pulses are the staple diet of the rural poor and they bore the brunt of the price hike.

“If we lose the elections, the blame would singularly be on our inability to control prices of dal,” said a senior BJP leader who is wary of the party’s poll prospects on account of price rise.

Another unquantifiable variable that has hit the BJP hard is the statement of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat favouring review of the OBC’s reservation. In the assessment of the Grand Alliance strategists, the statement gave them the opportunity to project the BJP as a pro-upper caste party that opposes reservation. It took the BJP quite a while to realize the damage caused by the statement and bring in correctives. On the other hand, Nitih Kumar-led alliance lost no time in spreading the word that the BJP was averse to OBC’s entitlement in government jobs. In a society where government jobs are the signs of upward social and economic mobility, the disinformation about the BJP caused serious damage. The extent of it would be clear on November 8 when the poll results are announced.

Yet another variable pertains to over-reliance of marketing strategies by both sides to convince the electorate. After his 2014 Lok Sabha defeat, Nitish Kumar learnt the hard way the cost of ignoring modern tools of campaigning. This time he was alert and he roped in Prashant Kishore, the man who ran Modi’s campaign in 2014 elections. In this election, Nitish’s campaign was conducted in a flawless manner while the BJP floundered by placing too much reliance on people from different states to run the campaign. The apparent show of trust-deficit by central leadership against leaders of the state also took a toll on local cadres’ morale.

But once again, these variables which make or break the chances of parties, are not quantifiable. The Bihar elections will remain an enigma wrapped in a mystery till the results finally come.

Updated Date: Nov 08, 2015 07:09:35 IST