Double-fisted punch

Nitish magic in Bihar

Bihar’s much derided electorate has administered a resounding double-fisted punch on the chin of exactly the sort of politics which breeds 2G spectrum, Adarsh and CWG. JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar has also demolished caste and emerged as 21st century India’s model leader.

It was smart anticipation on the part of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to walk briskly towards the cameras and, avoiding the Bihar debacle, rattle off the list of corrective measures against those of her party or coalition partners caught with their hand in the till.

She contrasted this against BJP’s triple summersault on Yeddyurappa and his scams in Karnataka. In her brief performance there were shades of Indira Gandhi who, when cornered, generally lashed out.

Holding onto Nitish Kumar’s waist coat, the BJP has exceeded all expectations in Bihar. They could have basked in that glory a little longer. Instead of partying in Patna, they yoked themselves to Yeddyurappa in Bangalore, because, by some accounts, he threatened to split the local BJP and deny the party the support of every single Lingayat mutt in Karnataka.

Nitish Kumar, of course, has made history by universally acclaimed good governance and brilliant politics. Once it became clear that the minorities had totally given up on the Congress particularly after the Ayodhya judgement, the expectation was that the Muslim vote would habitually drift towards Lalu Prasad Yadav.

That the Muslims turned to Nitish despite his alliance with the BJP could well be another turning point in the country’s political history. This confirms the extent of Muslim exasperation with the Congress. Nitish harnessed this disgust deftly by coming across as a firm leader who could keep the BJP on a tight leash. In other words, he could moderate the BJP.

No BJP leaders, who are anathema to the minorities, were allowed to campaign. Then there was the record of five years free of communalism, years of development, roads, schools, uniforms, gender equality, 11 per cent growth, a general ambience of welfare. The compelling attractiveness of development, dwarfing caste and religion, places Nitish as the tallest leader today. The BJP worked with the diligence of ants.

Mutual benefit

Taking full advantage of Nitish’s secular efficiency, under his attractive, overarching canopy, the BJP cadres moved (rather like ‘Birnam wood’ coming to ‘Dunsinane Hill’ in Macbeth) and clinched their 91 seats varying their flight and spin imperceptibly from constituency to constituency. A dedicated cadre in the alliance must have helped Nitish too to clock 115 seats.

What Nitish has on his hands now is a first rate political situation. The BJP was never expected to come so close to the JD(U) in numbers. Together they now have a record four fifth of a House of 243. It is a paradox of politics that Nitish would have had an easier five years with a simple majority plus 20 seats. Why? Because friction is built into the present numerical equation between the JD(U) and the BJP.

A pity Lalu Prasad Yadav is walking into the sunset. He was an amusing figure in a country bereft of political humour. Also, he probably had outlived his utility at a time when Mandal is a fading memory. Some credit must also go to him: the caste churning he inaugurated prepared the ground for Nitish to aim for a new social equilibrium. This must not mislead folks from believing that we have moved into a post caste era. Far from it.

In the two byelections in UP, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party trounced the Congress. Apparently in the October panchayat elections, the Congress suffered reverses in its citadels of Rae Bareli and Amethi. The spin being given is that panchayat elections were on non-party lines and Mayawati was now buying up the winners. Does it sound plausible at all?

The election season has truly begun. Elections to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Assam, West Bengal and Kerala stare a debilitated Congress in the face in March and, a year later in UP and then the ultimate Kurukshetra, the General Election in 2014.

Congress rules alone or as UPA in 11 states. So do the BJP and its NDA incarnation, as in Bihar for instance. There are as many states where the chief ministers come from stables other than BJP or Congress.

Neither the Congress nor BJP leadership at the centre inspires. One of the shackles on the Congress is the party’s almost servile inability to spell out whether the youth surge, with Rahul Gandhi in the vanguard, is real or ephemeral. Does anybody in the party dare speak out that ‘Ekla chalo’ in Bihar or UP is an unrealistic slogan?

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