Tomorrow’s result will announce who will rule Bihar for the next five years but is the result really about Bihar’s future or BJP’s?
The 2015 Assembly elections have been closely watched by all political parties in the country since the result here will have national ramifications going forward, and will also be the staging area for the tone and tenor of politics till 2019 General elections.
There is more at stake for the BJP than for Bihar. Bihar has been ruled in its own characteristic way for decades with slow pace of development and people have more or less accepted it as an inevitable. Then came Nitish Kumar, who for the first time gave local people a glimmer of hope for transforming Bihar into a developed state or at least bring it up to par with some of the frontline states in India. And he did begin in earnestness and Bihar was showing signs of quickly catching up with the rest of India. But 2014 General elections changed political equations and BJP saw itself as a serious contender for staking a claim to form the next government in Bihar in 2015.
What if BJP wins in Bihar?
For a party that swept the national elections, BJP has a lot riding on Bihar. While it is on a strong wicket in Lok Sabha, it is facing severe opposition to its development agenda in the Rajya Sabha, given its lesser numbers. That’s why winning Bihar is so crucial for the party. A victory here will not just strengthen the party in Rajya Sabha but will once again rejuvenate brand ‘Modi’ as the leading mascot for change and development in the country.
After losing Delhi, BJP needs Bihar to send out a strong signal to regional parties that BJP has the ability to penetrate state politics at the grass root level and beat them in their own turf. With elections coming up in Assam, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, BJP’s strategy in these states will get a boost if it wins with a clear margin.
A victory will once again rejuvenate the political perception of an ‘invincible’ duo in ‘Modi & Shah’. Of late, there have been whispers within the party questioning Amit Shah’s style of functioning. A victory here will place Amit Shah firmly as the Number 2 power centre within the party.
On development, BJP has successfully demonstrated its administrative capability in executing its development agenda in states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, all of which were laggards on development. Today, these states are setting standards for other lesser-developed states to emulate.
BJP realizes that it is best placed to transform Bihar and any positive impact in Bihar will open up the path for making political inroads in the East and North East subsequently. In the east, the biggest prize will be to crack West Bengal, and Bihar is the gateway to that goal.
What if BJP loses Bihar?
Politically, there is a lot at stake in Bihar for BJP. In the run up to 2014 General elections, the party was deeply polarized between camps that supported Narendra Modi’s candidature for Prime Minister and those that were against him. The internal dissent rose to a point of threatening the party’s entire campaign fight before it even began.
In this backdrop, BJP’s resounding victory led by Narendra Modi and backed by a politically savvy Amit Shah, not just in the 2014 General elections but in subsequent state elections, established Modi as a strong and decisive leader who can lead India into the 21st century and Amit Shah as the political genius who has a better sense of the political pulse than anyone else in the party. That was till Delhi happened, and now there are elements within the party that are silently waiting for the right time to come out against the duo’s complete domination of the party.
Amit Shah has been facing criticism for his domineering style of functioning and many have questioned his political strategy, especially post Delhi elections. A defeat here will only strengthen those elements that are opposed to him and may result in Amit Shah not leading the election campaign in other states going forward. That will only weaken Narendra Modi, who sees Amit Shah as his closest and most trusted ally and one who is working towards building the party, while he, Modi, continues to focus on the national and international agenda.
A loss in Bihar will strengthen the resolution of regional parties and open the doorway for Nitish Kumar to emerge as the rallying force for uniting all opposition parties against the BJP. SP’s Mulayam Singh nursed such ambitions at one time but that was short-lived. A victory for Nitish Kumar could well propel him to the national scene, something he has secretly nursed for a long time.
Losing in Bihar will make BJP’s campaign that much more challenging in states that go to polls in 2016, followed by the crucial one in U.P in early 2017. After Bihar, U.P. will be very crucial for the BJP and therefore, a defeat here in Bihar, will only work to SP’s advantage and to an extent BSP’s, in U.P.
BJP simply cannot afford to lose Bihar as a defeat here will almost certainly put the brakes on Modi’s development agenda, as also his international projection as a popular leader in India who can get things done.
Tomorrow we’ll know for sure which way is BJP heading.