WEB DESK: Sunday’s election in India’s second most populous state, Bihar, widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cow politics, delivered a resounding victory to a grand alliance led by chief minister Nitin Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JUD) and Lalu Parsad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Contrary to the predictions of BJP cheerleaders in the media, the alliance won 178 seats in the 243-member state assembly while the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance managed to get just 58 seats. Modi had personally campaigned hard for his party’s success making more than two dozen campaign trips to the state. And yet his party lost so badly.
Nitish Kumar, chief minister of the state since 2005 – with a brief absence last year when he resigned for his party’s poor performance in the 2014 general elections – remains popular for undertaking several development schemes. Lalu Parsad, himself a former CM, like Kumar belongs to a low caste and is well-liked in the country for his progressive stance on caste and communal issues.
At least 17 percent of the state’s population is Muslim, and 51 percent members of what is known as Other Backward Class (OBC), like Kumar and Lalu Parsad, as well as Extremely Backward Castes (ECC). A combination of Kumar’s economic performance and Lalu Parsad’s image as a well-liked secular leader seem to have worked as a perfect winning combination.
The BJP strategists, on the other hand, used the divide and win policy they had used during the general elections, relying on religious slogans and symbols to win block Hindu votes. They had even attacked the chief minister for remaining silent over the purported threat the cow faces from the prime minister’s opponents.
To further work up Hindu voters against Nitish Kumar and Lalu Parsad, whom the BJP had taken to task in past for visiting Pakistan and maintaining a soft stance towards the country, the BJP claimed that a defeat for Modi would be a victory for Pakistan. In an open display of hate and prejudice against this country, no less a personage than the BJP president Amit Shah averred that in the event of his party’s defeat “firecrackers would go off in Pakistan.”
People like him of course are blind to the fact that India bashing is no more part of Pakistani politics. India does not figure anywhere in this country’s electoral campaigns. Nevertheless, the BJP-RSS combine’s poisonous anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric, and the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and Mumbai confirm this country’s founding fathers’ conviction that Muslims will not be safe in a Hindu-dominated India. Time has proven them right.
The latent communal tensions have erupted in violent religious extremism on the watch of the BJP guided by the custodian of its Hindutva ideology, the RSS. This is neither in the interest of India’s own peace and progress nor its relations with neighbouring countries.
The election results in Bihar might urge a policy rethink by Modi and his men within the domestic political context, but there is little hope of change in their hostility towards Pakistan.