Why Bihar polls are important: The verdict here will define India’s polity and future

No, this is not an ordinary election. What Bihar decides today will define the India of tomorrow.

Sandipan Sharma November 02, 2015 23:07:35 IST
Why Bihar polls are important: The verdict here will define India’s polity and future

Patna: If the entire country is watching the coverage of Bihar assembly polls and ignoring the India vs South Africa series, do not blame the poor form of our cricketers. Politics is the new opium of the Indian masses and most of them can't resist the temptation of watching every edition of the Indian Political League because of the drama, suspense, dialogue and the cast of characters.
Bihar has turned into the mother of all elections not just because it has the usual ingredients: a political heavyweight and well matched adversary locked in a keen contest and an audience that is cheering for both. The Bihar election is important because it has the potential to change India's dynamics, economics and politics in many ways. Here are some of the things at stake:

Maun Modi or Roaring PM?

Why Bihar polls are important The verdict here will define Indias polity and future

Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar in file photos.

Every morning at the Patna airport, half a dozen choppers are on the standby for take-off these days. This could be a metaphor for Modi government which has been on standby mode for almost 18 months now.

The general perception within the government and Modi supporters is that big bang reforms and policy initiatives will be rolled out the moment Modi gets the numbers in the Rajya Sabha.

In May 2014, in the wake of the huge BJP victory in the Lok Sabha polls, Bihar appeared to be one of the states in Modi's pocket. It was assumed within the party that the NDA will repeat its performance in the assembly polls and win in excess of 165 seats, a figure commensurate with the 2014 results.

The BJP can still win Bihar. Since it is a bipolar contest, the number of seats could be much higher than the vote difference between the two alliances. If this happens, the government will be back on the track.

But what if it doesn’t? It would be impossible for the BJP to come out of the disaster unscathed. In all probability, with the numbers stacked against it, the Modi government will be a lame duck dispensation. As Arun Shourie said recently, it will become UPA 3 and Modi will be silenced into maun by an even noisier opposition.

Unfortunately for the BJP, Bihar was meant to be safest election among the assembly polls scheduled from October to the end of 2017. The BJP has very little chance of making an impact in West Bengal and retaining Punjab. It is comfortably placed in Assam today but the state is too small to make a huge impact in the fortunes of the BJP.

To continue with the cricket analogy, Bihar is the last recognised batsman in the lineup for this innings. Once Bihar falls, the BJP could fall like a team with lots of tail enders.

Shah or checkmate

Knives are already out for Amit Shah within the BJP because of his autocratic attitude. A section of the BJP wants to regain control of the party by removing Shah and replacing him with Rajnath Singh. Among those planning a coup d'etat, there is visible optimism and burgeoning hope because trends from Bihar are suggesting a tough fight and even a loss for the NDA.

If this happens, it will prove once again after Delhi that Shah is highly overrated as an election strategist and party chief. His famed strategy of flying in a team of experts from Delhi, marginalising local leaders and relying heavily on Modi will be exposed as flawed and outdated. And, unlike Delhi, there will be no Kiran Bedi to take the blame.

Rise or fall of the third front

The Bihar election is similar to the 2012 assembly polls in Gujarat. A win for the Mahagathbandhan led by Nitish Kumar could change the contours of Indian politics just like Modi' s victory. If he wins, Nitish Kumar will become the numero uno challenger to the prime minister. He will take his secular model of politics outside Bihar to pit it as the choice against the Hindutva brand of BJP politics.

It doesn't take much to challenge a PM from a state capital these days. Modi has successfully demonstrated that in the age of 24x6 TV and social media, national politics can be done from a state capital. So, like Modi, the Bihar CM too would issue statements against the Centre, propose an alternate and better model of governance, hold parallel events on national holidays and events and form a loose alliance with like-minded chief ministers.

No, this is not an ordinary election. What Bihar decides today will define the India of tomorrow.

Updated Date:

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