Stakes are high for everyone in Bihar state elections
Both the NDA and the Nitish-Lalu alliance have huge stakes in the October-November elections.editorials Updated: Sep 10, 2015 02:25 IST
With the Election Commission announcing the Bihar poll dates on Wednesday, the country is headed for the most important political event of the year. Bihar has always played a large role in defining national politics. Now the state is at the crossroads.
After a prolonged run with lawlessness and lack of development, there was a spurt of growth in the past decade. But political instability since 2012 has taken attention away from governance. A clean mandate is necessary so that the next government can focus on improving the lives of Bihar’s citizens.
For the BJP, Bihar matters in many ways. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to invest an enormous amount of political energy in the elections. He has already addressed four rallies and announced a substantial package, and the party is asking for votes in his name in the absence of a CM candidate.
If the BJP wins, it will replenish the PM’s political capital and reinforce the message that his popularity is intact. It will also boost BJP president Amit Shah’s credentials in the party. The BJP will get the confidence to face a difficult opposition in Parliament, and push ahead with reforms and its governance agenda. It will also set up the BJP nicely for the 2017 elections in UP.
Precisely for these reasons, Bihar matters to the Opposition. If the grand alliance is able to stop the BJP’s victory run, it will project it as the beginning of the end of the central regime. It will boost the morale of the Opposition in Parliament; it will offer a model to other parties to unite against the BJP to avoid the fragmentation of votes.
CM Nitish Kumar suffered a humiliating rout in the Lok Sabha elections; his party organisation is fragile and a defeat could mean political marginalisation. Alternatively, a win would set him up as the first leader to have taken on Mr Modi directly. Lalu Prasad is convicted; he has lost the last four elections and his children are struggling politically.
While a defeat could finish his chances of a comeback, a win will show that his Muslim-Yadav alliance remains formidable. The Congress is marginal in the state, but a win will help it raise the stakes against Mr Modi nationally.