Grand Alliance – JD(U), RJD and Congress – led by Nitish Kumar finally registered a grand success. A massive victory for a combination that was written off by almost all exit polls. Be that as it may, the important question is, what lessons this result carries for other parties, especially the regional parties?
On a less important note these results prove that exit polls can go horribly wrong. Having some idea of psephology and surveys, being associated with one of the premier autonomous institutions involved in conducting electoral surveys—CSDS-Loknit, I do know that most of the organizations involved in this exercise do put in a lot of intellectual and technical effort to get the correct results. But still there is a lot of difference between predicting results on a small sample size and the actual results. Also there is a difference between what people say and what they actually do on a polling day.
Secondly, these results have proved that rabble rousing and hate mongering do not work if people are given real freedom to chose their destiny. The fact that BJP took its hate campaign to climax in Bihar could be gauged by the fact that even Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav were called anti-nationals and asked to go to Pakistan. BJP president Amit Shah, to arouse sympathy of voters, stated that if BJP wins Pakistan would burst crackers. Well Mr. Shah, let me assure you that Pakistan today will be disappointed with your defeat! You are doing a great job for them in India. Religious sentiments were aroused around cow, beef and minorities. Mr. Modi went on to claim that Grand Alliance would take away reservation from backward Hindus and give it to Muslims. What he forgot was that he was not talking in Jammu or Leh, where you can win on the plank of divisive politics, but in Bihar.
Thirdly, Bihar results have proved that a government committed to the welfare of people and a Chief Minister who has a vision for his people, and who is committed to providing real people friendly governance, do not need to appease the government at the Centre, to remain in power. Ironically today even leaders from BJP and Shiv Sena are admitting that they had advised the party high command to focus on development and not communal politics, as Nitish Kumar has done really good work on the ground. Some of the leaders even blamed the arrogance of Mr. Modi for the loss. This has a great lesson for the mainstream political parties in Kashmir. While Nitish Kumar took fight right to the door of Mr. Modi and BJP, and showed that regional parties need not work under shadow or threat of a national party, the political parties in Kashmir have always succumbed before New Delhi. Yes this has lot to do with the political situation in Kashmir, which for a long was not considered fit for democracy, but this has more to do with the fact that Political leaders in Kashmir never felt confident about their position among the people of Kashmir. It was not for nothing the Dr. Farooq Abdullah on varius occasions openly stated that, "I have figured out that to remain in power here you have to be on the right side of Delhi and that's what I am going to do", and that is what all mainstream leaders are doing.
Fourth, the remarkable performance of Lalu led RJD has a lesson for those political parties who are in opposition or who have been out of power for a long time. No doubt Lalu does not carry a clean image, but one thing that goes to the credit of Lalu is his steadfast stand against communal/fascist forces. Though called an opportunist he never tried to ally with parties like BJP. This has paid great dividends for him in this election.
Fifth, and very significantly, this result has sent a loud and clear message that ferrying people to make election rallies look fat don't get you results. Nalin Kohli, spokesperson of BJP, while replying to an allegation by his opponent that BJP ferried people to election rally venues of Mr. Modi, replied that 'you can ferry people to venues but you can't fill enthusiasm in them'. Results have proved his opponents right, however, this has a larger message especially for places like Kashmir. Filling venues doesn't change ground realities.
Last but not the least, if a package of One Hundred and Twenty-five Lack Crore, announced by Mr. Modi for Bihar as a political stunt can't change the results in his favour in a relatively poorer state, will the 'packages' change the situation in place like Kashmir, where you have to virtually cage entire populace to organize a rally and where immediately after the 'package' announcement you get funerals. Please remember you can buy individuals not entire population. As one television anchor put it: 'the republic of Bihar has defeated communalism as well as packages'. Political ideologies apart, one must give credit to Omar Abdullah for having guts to tell, as Chief Minister of J&K, on the face of former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh, that youth in Kashmir did not pick guns for economic package. Situation is no different today.
The writer teaches at the Dept. of Political Science, Kashmir University