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The Message From Bihar

By Sazzad Hussain

12 November, 2015

It has been a common perception in our collective psyche in states like Assam and Maharashtra that Biharis are under average people engaged in economic activities not practised by locals. The regional politics in Maharashtra, spearheaded by Shiv Sena and now its trajectory the MNS, Biharis and North Indians are demonized and blamed for the overcrowded space. In Assam too, they are underrated. But the state, whose large chunk of the population migrates to other states for poverty also produces highest number of officers in the public services. And this time Bihar scripted history when it stopped the Modi juggernaut in the state assembly polls this time. This election result will be remembered for many reasons not only for defeating the forces of division and disunity propagated by the BJP, but for ushering a new era of pluralistic society at the time of intolerance and exclusivist agenda on the air.

The mantra of Narendra Modi’s phenomenal electoral success was his slogan for ‘development’ which, as accused by his party, had been diluted by Congress’ ‘secularism’ over the years. In fact, the appeal was that development was much necessary than secularism. But as incidents of extreme intolerance increased, culminating in the Dadri lynching before the Bihar polls, it was the Moody’s, which once endorsed Modi’s leadership for better economic growth in India, warned that development won’t be possible without tolerance and peace. This was preceded by similar warnings by RBI Governor Raghu Rajan. Common Bihari people may not have understood what the Moody’s ratings or RBI Governor’s observation, but they clearly have understood the message of hate and divisiveness carried by the ruling party at the centre which they responded befittingly through ballot. The clear mandate for the Mahajotbandhan is a vote against all forms of divisive politics of communal hatred and religious intolerance along with for a vote for social welfare and economic development. The economic development espoused by the BJP led NDA is just foreign investment which creates jobs for Indians whose income can run the supply machine of demands of consumer products with little space for savings. In this system of crony capitalism only a consumer class exists and men’s possession over other assets and resources get increasingly minimized. The concept of a welfare state is also pushed to the background for corporate interests. All these policies under Modi’s brand name have well understood by the people of Bihar in last eighteen months for which they trounced them in the polls despite Prime Minister’s three dozen plus poll rallies in the state throughout October.

But surprisingly, Modi’s ‘development’ punch line was rebooted to typical archaic rhetoric of the Sangh from the second phase of the Bihar polls when Modi declared “Nitish and Lalu are conspiring to take away five per cent of reservation of the OBCs, EBCs and Dalits and give it away to a particular community’. This crafty appeal, successfully applied in Gujarat many years ago to polarize the voters and pitying Dalits against Muslims did not work in Bihar. The talk on beef, reservations and Pakistan instead of development swung the voters towards the grand alliance who talked about social inclusion, welfare and development.

Other typical Gujarati templates, locally known as Jumla fancied by Amit Shah failed to enthuse Biharis in polls. In 2007 assembly polls in Gujarat, Modi said a vote to Congress would mean a vote to Musharaf (then Pakistani president). In 2012 polls he termed ‘Ahmed Miyan Patel’ while attacking the Congress and its senior state leader Ahmed Patel. This time in Bihar Amit Shah told about crackers burst in Pakistan if NDA loses. While the Prime Minister and Shah breathed fire with bellicose remarks, the Mahajotbandhan replied them with decent words creating a sharp contrast between PM Modi and CM candidate Nitish. And at the end of the day, Bihar people opted for the leader who does not have any marketing strategies. Nistish’s opposition to Modi was declared long ago in 2013 when he parted with the BJP from the coalition government as soon as the former was made the Prime Ministerial candidate for the BJP for the 2014 polls. Since then he has been consistent on his stand despite the spectacular victory of the BJP in Bihar in Lok Sabha polls and the gaining momentum of Modi at the centre. This consistency is one principle which has been respected by the people of Bihar generating a belief that this man could deliver his promises.

The impact of the Bihar poll results would be long lasting and widespread. As Bihar is the third populated state in India, it can send more representatives to the Rajya Sabha in the coming days. That means, the NDA which is short of a majority in the upper house, will find it difficult to pass bills meant for its various economic and other agendas. This poll result will definitely force the NDA to shift in its strategy to bring reform in the economic sector and define a new cultural nationalism. The proposed Goods and Services Tax Bill will be the first casualty in this regard. Secondly the ghost of Mandal Commission is going to haunt the Modi government because of the success of the Mahajotbandhan of Lalu-Nitish combine whose OBC and backward class supporters voted them in in the wake of RSS chief’s call for end of reservation. The success of Mayawati’s BSP in recent Panchayaat polls in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh also portends a stiff challenge from the backward communities in the assembly polls of the state for the BJP in 2017. Indeed the Bihar poll results will definitely unite the majority Indians who has seen the country reeling in unnecessary turmoil of religious intolerance, violence and a blanket cultural nationalism which is blind to the economic slowdown and inequality and lacks scientific reasoning.

Bihar has said loud and clear that harmony and coexistence is necessary for growth and development. The myth of bringing economic development at a great social cost is unacceptable in India.

(The writer teaches English at Lakhimpur Commerce College)


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