iconimg Thursday, September 03, 2015

Binod Dubey & Shekhar Iyer, Hindustan Times
Patna/New Delhi, November 25, 2010
On Wednesday, the 15-year-old JD(U)-BJP alliance looked the best-ever crafted tie-up that swept the Bihar elections - with brand Nitish Kumar as its logo. But six months ago the alliance was almost on the brink. And, it needed more than a dinner parley between Kumar and BJP's chief interlocuter Arun Jaitley to sort out a bitter row - over Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's advertisement showing him with Kumar.

Kumar and Jaitely worked hard on the chemistry between the two parties in five months, realising that both parties needed each other. Modi was kept out of Bihar campaign in deference to Kumar's demand. Burying their bitterness, which was prevalent for most part of the alliance was in office, Kumar and BJP leaders worked to win each other's candidates.

That was not easy, admit BJP leaders. After all, in June 2008, BJP MLAs, who were upset with Kumar, wanted OBC leader Sushil Modi axed - because he was close to Kumar - and were willing to go it alone. But central BJP leaders reined them in.

All this changed once Kumar pledged to BJP that he had no plans to ditch the party. Both realised their alliance was symbiotic in nature. The JD(U) needed the BJP for bringing the upper caste votes. The BJP had to ride on Kumar's image for the pan-Bihari vote.

Besides, Kumar's social engineering of Mahadalits and non-Yadav OBCs and Muslims was what gave cutting edge to the NDA over rivals. On other hand, the BJP had a better cadre network than the JD(U), hence its strike rate was better.

Also, Jaitley and other BJP strategists agreed with Kumar and ensured silence over the Ayodhya verdict to avoid alienating Muslim voters.

"Instead of raising any contentious issue, we harped on development factor," said a BJP leader, who had a major say in seat distribution.

The BJP won 91 seats against 103 it contested. In terms of percentage, its success rate was about 88% compared to 54% in 2005 October-November polls, when it fielded candidates in 102 constituencies winning 55.

Significantly, the success rate of the JD (U), which was considered as the "Big Brother" of the BJP, was 82%.

Analysts had expected the JD(U)'s win rate to improve while the BJP's tally not to cross the 40-seat mark because of the pre-poll intra party rivalry and the expected shift of its upper caste vote bank to the Congress. But they were proved wrong.

Unlike its 2005 poll performance, the BJP made its presence in almost all districts of Bihar. In some of the districts like Katihar, Purnia, Araria, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur, the party increased its existing tally, while in some districts like Samastipur it won fresh seats.

"We are now everywhere. Whether it is West, East, South, North or Central Bihar, everywhere the lotus is blooming," remarked a jubilant BJP spokesman Sanjay Mayukh.

In Seemanchal, the combine made inroads into the Muslim vote bank of the RJD.

The BJP's decision to field fresh faces also worked in its favour.