And finally the loud, acrimonious, heated, controversial, and at times, downright hilarious election campaign in Bihar came to its end on Tuesday. Rarely has a state election raised so much of heat and dust that making sense through the fog of electoral rhetoric seems most challenging for the simple folk of Bihar.
For over a month, virtually the entire political face of the government, including the Prime Minister, has been parked in Bihar grinding away across dusty roads, shuttling from rally to rally, with a fervent hope of reaching out with their message to every voter in the state. The leaders of the Grand Alliance weren’t far behind. It’s a do-or-die battle for both the NDA and the Grand Alliance and this has led to a lot of words being exchanged in a free-for-all, many times – below the belt.
As the campaign ends and the final phase of voting commences tomorrow, it is perhaps a good time to look at the past months and try and make sense of who said what.
BJP launched its Bihar campaign in July with the first of its ‘Parivartan’ rallies held at Muzaffarpur. This is where he set the tone and tenor of the campaign that was to follow. It was here that PM Modi first began to invoke the fear of a return to ‘Rozana Jungle Raj’ and ‘Goonda Raj’. This was to be the core of BJP’s campaign, besides the message of development that the party would bring to the state, if it was voted to power. He would build on these two themes through the entire campaign process, to offer people of Bihar what he believed was a better alternative.
In July, BJP was on a strong wicket where it seemed that people were looking forward to a refreshing change in government and hoped that BJP would be able to do what Congress, Lalu Prasad and subsequently Nitish Kumar had failed to do.
But once campaigning began in full force, there was a slew of accusations from the Grand Alliance camp, especially from Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, and Modi himself along with the BJP leadership found themselves drawn into countering accusations with counter accusations, and somewhere in the barrage of rhetoric, the message of ‘development’ took a backseat.
The ‘Jungle Raj’ jibes were followed by accusations about Lalu promoting his family, his corruption cases and that he was gearing up to remote control a government that a weakened Nitish Kumar would lead. He questioned the reason of Nitish joining hands with his bitter rival Lalu Prasad, calling it opportunistic and greed for power. The BJP pulled out an old video showing Nitish Kumar visiting a Tantric and accused the Mahagathbandhan for ruling on the basis of ‘Jhantar Mantar’.
On Sonia Gandhi, he raked up UPA’s scams, her foreign origin and the fact that the nation had rejected the UPA and her remote controlling of the government. He didn’t spend too much time on Rahul Gandhi as he mostly dismissed the ‘Yuvraaj’ as a non-entity. Modi called the trio of Nitish, Lalu and Sonia the ‘three idiots’ of the Grand Alliance.
In the final lap of campaigning, the PM brought up the ’84 Sikh riots, drawing strong criticism from the opposition and other political observers in the country.
Unfortunately, the PM seemed to come down to Lalu Prasad’s level in his quest to gain a rhetoric upper hand but ended up lowering his own stature, while by default, Nitish Kumar continued to emerge more statesmanlike.
Nitish Kumar demonstrated that he had mastered Modi’s tactics of effectively using social and electronic media to his advantage. He got off to an early start by creating a fictional character called ‘Jumla Babu’ – a man who sold big dreams with promises that were never fulfilled and likened Modi to Jumla Babu. This has been the platform for the entire campaign of the Grand Alliance to counter all that Modi promised in his rallies and it seems to have stuck.
Nitish Kumar questioned Modi’s promise of bringing back black money stashed abroad and that he would put Rs 15-20 lakhs in every citizen’s account. He questioned Modi’s promise of ‘acche din’ when food inflation, especially the price of Dal, was at an all-time high. He accused the PM of spending more time overseas than in India and ignoring various issues of development.
He strongly hit out at the PM for remaining silent on issues that was threatening the social fabric of the country. He accused the PM of remaining silent on Dadri, beef controversy and the Faridabad Dalit children killing, saying he remained silent at the behest of his mentor organization, RSS.
He also triggered a heated debate when he raked up the ‘Bahari vs Bihari’ controversy aimed at Modi. Nitish Kumar consistently challenged the PM to a public debate which Modi declined to respond.
Lalu Prasad Yadav
Lalu Prasad courted controversy with his first speech at Raghopur to promote his sons when he said that the election was battle between ‘forwards and backwards’. His also made a remark against Amit Shah whom he called ‘narbhakshi’ – cannibal. He called the PM a ‘brahmpisach’. The remarks drew strong response from the BJP and resulted in FIRs being filed against him and drew criticism from the CEC.