Game of Thrones: Bihar Elections

All elections are interesting and Bihar is no exception. If one captures the Bihar political scenario in a script, it will be befitting popular Netflix series House of Cards.

Image Courtesy: Satish Upadhyay

In the fiercely fought Bihar elections, amidst the Corona pandemic, the voters from Bihar gave simple, yet complex mandate giving a return ticket to the incumbent National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The national party Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has been sharing power with Janta Dal United (JDU) since 2005, but things had taken a different turn when Nitish Kumar broke the alliance and formed a Grand Alliance with few opposition parties. But after 4 years (2013-17), Nitish Kumar again switched sides, dumped Grand Alliance, and made peace with BJP and got them as part of his government. The 2020 assembly results has again changed the terms of the relationship between the BJP and the JDU in favour of the former.

The question on Nitish Kumar’s political move and his moral authority have been debated upon in the past and now with the NDA winning the majority seats, but Nitish led JDU having lesser seats than the coalition partner BJP, the focus is again on Nitish Kumar.

Here are the 5 key takeaway by Suhas Palshikar, chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics, from the recently concluded Assembly elections in Bihar.


Brand Modi 

(Image courtesy: Deccan Herald)

Popularity of Modi seems to be a stable factor in the BJP’s electoral politics. So much so that he has transformed into a brand. Like a brand, he can be used in any state, any context and against any competition. While this continues to be great news for the BJP, it must also worry the party’s core strategists.


Coalition Drama & Dharma

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Bihar brought out both the benefits and tensions of coalitions. For the BJP, coalitions are a temporary tactic while for non-BJP parties, they are a life-support. Despite voter fatigue vis-a-vis Nitish Kumar, in Bihar, the BJP chose to avoid that temptation and maintained the alliance. Now, having shown Nitish where he stands, the relationship between the BJP and JDU will be something to watch.

Power of being in Power

Pic Courtesy: Ramachandra Babu

It is not merely about coalitions as a theoretical requirement or political virtue — the issue is winning states. “Bihar, at the cusp of the north and east, represents an important territorial ambition. The marginalisation of Nitish means that the BJP now has a more straightforward contender to defeat – the RJD. In that sense, stealing Nitish Kumar from the MGB in 2017 has shown that the BJP understands the importance of being in power


Localising Ideology

Pic Courtesy: Surendra / The Hindu

A question that has vexed observers is the BJP’s efforts to retain its core Hindutva ideology and, at the same time, adapt to the state-specificity of electoral politics. So far, the BJP has not been able to entirely set aside local narratives, imageries and issues. It can fulfil its ambition only if it can superimpose over most geographic regions of the country its overarching idea of Hindu India.

Big Boss is watching

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Finally, and again without reference to the victory or loss of the NDA in Bihar, elections in the state and the party’s performance should convince analysts who continue to be sceptical about the future dominance of the BJP. Modi was successful not only in getting his party re-elected but in improving its performance.

(With inputs from )

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