Too much should not be read into the good showing by the RJD-JD(U)-Congress combine in the Bihar bypolls, though it’s a bit surprising that five of the six constituencies that it has won in fall in the Lok Sabha seats which the BJP-LJP had swept during the April-May polls.
However, it again proves the point that electoral arithmetic and caste consolidation can make or mar the fortunes of a party in Indian elections. What went in the combine’s favour was that the Mahadalits, on the one hand, and the Muslims and Yadavs, on the other, had been able to put up united resistance to the BJP-LJP formation. But this is certainly not a referendum on the three months of Narendra Modi’s prime ministership. By-elections neither testify to nor negate the existence of any wave — be that of an individual or of a party. And nothing substantial has happened in the past three months for the electorate to turn its back on the central government.
Having said that, the point must be conceded that Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar have some reason to feel happy about, after their drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, though they fought separately then. Mr Kumar had been pilloried for snapping his alliance with the BJP. There had been desertions from his party and some of his senior colleagues had been openly critical of him. Mr Kumar found it difficult to answer the difficult question as to whether his opposition was to the BJP and its ideology, or just the appointment of Mr Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. After the poll debacle Mr Kumar did take the high moral ground by resigning as chief minister and promising to do party work, to neutralise the criticism against him, for his political career seemed to be at stake. Now he can work with more confidence for the assembly elections, which are a year from now. Still, one question remains. Mr Kumar and Mr Prasad were at each other’s throats till the other day and became friends once they saw a common adversary in the BJP after the Lok Sabha poll results were out. In their current moment of success, they should explain to the people of Bihar how the exigencies of today’s politics brought them under the same tent.
These bypoll results are in agreement with the general trend observed over the past few elections that the results of the Lok Sabha polls and those of assembly elections have thrown up divergent pictures, though there have been occasional departures from this pattern. Bihar, unlike UP, has no doubt seen better governance, and a large part of the credit for this goes to Mr Kumar. There are 11 assembly seats, along with a Lok Sabha constituency, going to polls in UP next month. The outcome will definitely have an impact on the morale of the UP government.