As the two major coalitions in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha election contest continue to prophesy a clear victory for themselves, we will know in a week the people’s verdict. In the meantime, predictably, the electoral battle has hinged broadly on three factors: (a) How the Mahadalits and the Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) have voted? (b) Which way the majority of women has tilted? and (c) Whether or not the Prime Minister has retained his appeal to the younger aspirational generation.
On Monday, October 19, in a general election, the Canadian voters threw out Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party Prime Minister for two terms (nine years). According to the majority of Canadians, Stephen Harper, going into his second term, had become very overbearing. He enforced his conservative policies, slashed down social services programs, favored wealthy to become more rich, denied environmental problems and suppressed dissent not only from the academic or scientific community but also within his own party.
"All politics is local," Tip O'Neill, the former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, is reputed to have once observed.
In the context of the ongoing Bihar Vidhan Sabha election also, the politics depends on what the pulls and pressures are in each constituency. From a distance, it’s difficult to gauge the public mood and therefore the voting trend. Even the reporters on the ground send mixed signals.
In the closing hours of the campaign, it seems both sides (the NDA and the Grand Alliance) are desperately engaged in propaganda war. There are very little to educate and more to arouse the voters.
In less than a week Bihar embarks upon electing its Vidhan Sabha legislators who will be the custodians of the state’s fate for the next five years. The Yadavs, with their 14% share in the electorate, are the most coveted constituency for any political party or alliance. Together with the Muslims, it is claimed; they can again write the horoscope of Bihar. Politicians and pundits all emphasize the intrinsic socio-political strength of this caste that belongs to the Other Backward Caste (OBCs) category.
"May you live in interesting times," is widely attributed to a Chinese curse. But, this is so deliciously true in the case of many of us who are watching simultaneously elections in progress in three places over two continents: Bihar (in the Indian subcontinent), Canada and the United States (in North America).
The latest round of transfer and posting of many bureaucrats of IAS and IPS rank in Bihar following the orders of the Election Commission and in the wake of the forthcoming State election is a reprimand to the Nitish administration.
Born in 1968, Arvind Kejriwal must have been six year old when the Bihar student movement led by Jay Prakash Narayan in 1974 catapulted into an all India anti-corruption movement leading to the imposition of national Emergency on June the 25th, 1975. So, he must have learnt about the epoch-making events like the first 1967 Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (non-Congress coalition) governments in states or the great split of the Congress Party in 1969 or the 1974-77 movement either from the history books or the teachers or from members in his family.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three visits to Bihar are now associated with three buzzwords: the DNA remark; the Bimaru comment; and the developmental package for Bihar. The Lalu-Nitish team tried their best to counter all the three messages coming out of the three well mobilized meetings.
A Times of India report on the Gaya meeting of Narendra Modi (Aug 9, 2015) concluded: "The meeting ended with 'Har Har Mahadev' slogan raised by Union minister Giriraj Singh."
Bihar has been a seat of learning since the ancient times. “Shashtrartha,” that is, churning the books of knowledge, has always been a tradition of Bihar. Wherever you have an ambiance of learning, there’s a climate of tolerance; a willingness to understand as well as appreciate others’ points of view. Biharis have debated a lot, they may appear to be bickering but they listen to others respectfully. That tradition is in the danger of deteriorating fast.
In an address recently, Kailash Satyarthi, the nobel laureate, said that the rate of admission of students and their retention have gone up globally, but the quality of education and inclusion in the education system has gone down. The right to education, therefore, is key to development.
Posturing, lobbying or eventually infighting for the Chief Ministerial position within the BJP preceding the Fall Assembly election (2015) in Bihar does not bode well for the party.