Mantosh Sharma | October 23, 2015
Amid opinion polls and media blitzkriegs, it is hard to segregate the real mood and emotion of an electorate. This is even more profound in Bihar politics. The state has gone through two phases of polling and trends have shown encouraging sociological changes. I will refrain in taking this as a political narrative, but these few interesting events brought out a better spirit of Bihar.
Firstly, the number of women voters. Phase one saw 59.5 percent turnout of women voters. This was 57 percent in phase two.
In Bihar, one of the fallacies of opinion polls is that media barely interacts with women, particularly those who do not come out of their homes. Hence their sampling is somewhat skewed. But this increasing number shows their silent approval or disapproval of a candidate which was somewhat not captured in the first week of polls. Chief minister Nitish Kumar has done a lot of work for women in the last 10 years, though I am not sure whether this assertiveness reflected his constituency or something else. It shows that there is prevailing sense of security and confidence in the democratic system which was non-existent in the days of booth capturing. Women can come out and vote without fear is a great step forward.
Secondly, the impact of caste leaders is loosening. The NDA was supposed to get its vote share from Jitan Ram Manjhi, Ramvilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha as coalition partners. Actually this coalition was touted as chemistry where everything got figured out and understood. But in phase two polling, this assumption seems to be broken. There is a dent in this chemistry.
NDA partners are stumbling on their inability to transfer votes as envisaged before the polls. This is another event which happened for the good that will discourage political bargaining down the road.
Thirdly, new coalition also shows a new voting behaviour, particularly in the region which was once called “Fleming Fields of Bihar”. Booth capturing was non-existent, and everyone who wanted to vote, voted without fear and saw a coalition of earlier landlords and landless peasantry. In Jahanabad, Arwal and Gaya, Bhumihars and Dalit voted together without the fear of landlord army (if they exist now) or Naxal boycott. Sometime it makes you wonder how false the semi feudal pride and Naxal dogma of caste annihilation in name of caste struggle was. Bihar has seen a very sad butchery in the name of false feudal pride and class struggle.
Another encouraging sign is that Bihar is rejecting communal overtone. Polarisation based on beef eating controversies failed here. Similarly Asaduddin Owaisi is having a difficult time getting support to his party.
Lastly it seems that this election is hinged on the success of local leadership. There are many local leaders in both sides of major coalitions who are state grown politicians and can have major influence on the voting. Phase 1 and phase 2 polling is showing new kind of confidence in Nitish Kumar. They find Nitish is capable of doing everything which Modi is proposing for Bihar. NDA is having hard time convincing voters that Modi is a greater “Vikash Purush” than Nitish.
It is getting harder to convince that NDA will be delivering “Vikas” through another RSS sponsored unknown CM when there is a home grown politician who has already done it. Fear of Jungle Raj is slowly being dissipated among Nitish supporters on the ground that Nitish will not allow Lalu to prevail in the same way he didn’t allowed fringe elements to prevail while BJP was in power.
Having said that, everything is not hunky dory. Who had thought that after two decades, Bihar will be revisiting election based on Mandal and Kamandal. Political parties prefer to choose political mobilisation through their familiar and proven turfs. Bihar is not alone here.
Despite all the negativity and polarisation across castes, there are encouraging signs from these polls that Bihar is indeed moving ahead.
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