Bihar verdict: the idea of India is at stake

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Bihar verdict: the idea of India is at stake

The battle

  • The Bihar Assembly elections are too close to call
  • The result will shape the course of India's polity
  • This is the first organised attempt by anti-BJP parties to come together

What's at stake?

  • A BJP victory could embolden it to push its communal agenda
  • A Grand Alliance victory would lead to a coalescing of Opposition forces

More in the story

  • What impact will Bihar's results have on UP?
  • What will be the political realignments after the results?

To use a cricketing term, the Bihar Assembly elections have gone down to the wire. Few elections in the recent past have been so difficult to predict. But irrespective of which way the results go, it would shape the path India's polity will take in the next few years.

There was an inevitability to the BJP's victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. For once, after being out of power for a decade, they were ready with all the recipes to win an election - from the foot soldiers to the social media strategy, the finances and of course an extremely well packaged Prime Ministerial candidate in Narendra Modi.

Also read - Yogendra Yadav's take on #BiharPolls: Grand Alliance headed for a win

In many ways, the Assembly elections that have taken place since May 2014 have been influenced by the "Modi wave". The AAP's victory in Delhi was the only exception.

Nitish's challenge

Like Delhi, the BJP has run into strong local leader in Bihar. Nitish Kumar not only has a clean image, he has his own claims to "Vikas" a ubiquitous term that has come to mean different things to different people.

Nitish, who has ruled the state for the last 10 years, 8 of them in partnership with the BJP itself, was decimated in the Lok Sabha elections after he chose to walk out of the alliance on a question of "principle".

Yet he managed to get his act together in time to stitch an unlikely coalition. Despite desertions from Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Sharad Pawar's NCP, the Mahagathbandhan presented a formidable challenge to the Modi juggernaut.

Also read - The shani in his vrishchik: An astrologer's exit poll on Modi & Bihar

The BJP and its allies had swept Bihar by cleverly combining the promise of development with caste arithmetic. But with the JD(U), RJD and Congress joining forces, a repeat performance seemed unlikely.

The Assembly polls, conducted in 5 stages, saw all kinds of exchanges and name-calling. An election that was initially being fought on the plank of development, plummeted to cow politics and references to Pakistan in the last 2 stages.

Would a BJP victory in Bihar embolden the RSS to keep the communal pot boiling?

Though RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's remarks on reservations and VK Singh's disgraceful comments on the killing of Dalit children in Faridabad seemed like aberrations, there seems to have been a method to the madness. It helped vitiate and polarise the voters. The malicious advertisements issued by the BJP were also an attempt in this direction.

Though it might be a cynical way to look at it, there seems to have been a deliberateness in these "stray" remarks and the silence of the top brass in the BJP and the government. Their brazenness is evident by the fact that such tactics were deployed at a time when the country was outraged at the ghastly lynching in Dadri and the rise in intolerance across the country.

Is Uttar Pradesh next?

But does this end here? If the BJP wins Bihar, wouldn't they smell blood and take this formula to Uttar Pradesh in 2017 where they would go for the jugular? And UP might be an easier battle for the BJP as its opponents are disunited.

Would a victory in Bihar embolden the RSS to keep the communal pot boiling? The BJP already has the right suspects in its ranks. Yogi Adityanath, the saffron clad 7 time MP from Gorakhpur, could lead the charge from the eastern flank of UP and Muzaffarnagar riot accused Sanjeev Balyan and Sangeet Som from the western flank.

The Bihar election began as a debate on development but plummeted to cow and communal politics

Would UP once again witness localised riots fuelled by incendiary content on the internet?

We are already witnessing a similar strategy to polarise communities in Assam, which goes to the polls next year.

Would the communal juggernaut even stop at UP? Or will it continue till the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

If the Grand Alliance wins

Instead, if the Grand alliance manages to scrape through, it would certainly diminish the aura of Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah and compel them to rethink their way of functioning.

Perhaps it would even get the PM and his Cabinet back to work on issues of governance that need immediate attention.

It would underline the importance of opposition unity that Nitish Kumar first spoke about back in mid 2013.

Should the Grand Alliance win, it would also lead to political realignments and a coalescing anti-BJP forces as was seen in Bihar.

The future of India's polity is stored in the Electronic Voting Machines in Bihar.

READ MORE - Tough to predict Bihar results. But here are the factors that will count

Battle for Bihar: exit polls have merely deepened the suspense

Anand Kochukudy @AnandKochukudy