The nature of the Bihar poll verdict is likely to have a significant bearing on national politics as also governance at the Centre.
If the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) romps home on November 8, it would demoralise and further disunite the opposition, paving way for the government to give a fresh impetus to economic reforms, particularly those requiring parliamentary approval.
In the immediate context, the NDA regime may hope to get over the Rajya Sabha hurdle to the Constitution (Amendment) Bill enabling the passage of the goods and services tax (GST) in the winter session of Parliament.
A dejected opposition may not have enough political will and firepower to continue stalling NDA regime’s reforms agenda.
But, if the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)—Janata Dal (United)—-Congress alliance wins, an emboldened opposition would consider it a vindication of their obstructive tactics in Parliament and would try to stymie the NDA regime’s efforts to accelerate the pace of reforms.
With five states going to polls in April next year, a verdict against the NDA in Bihar might lead to renewed efforts for opposition unity at the national level. But, if the BJP wins in Bihar, it would gain enough momentum to challenge the Congress and other regional parties in poll-bound states, especially Assam and West Bengal.
As the Bihar polls have virtually turned into a Nitish Kumar-versus-Narendra Modi contest, there is much at stake for the BJP and the NDA regime at the Centre.
While the BJP has also not shied away from playing the caste card in Bihar, its hopes largely hinge on the Prime Minister’s ability to swing the youth in the NDA’s favour. His rallies in Bihar have drawn a large number of youth; 46% of the electorate in the state is in the 18-40 age group.
The opposition parties had celebrated the BJP’s debacle in Delhi assembly election as an indication of the PM’s waning popularity.
The ruling party would like to set the record straight in Bihar.
Within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, many detractors are also keenly watching the Bihar polls. Knives may be out in the ruling party if it does not do well.
The November 8 poll verdict will also indicate whether Bihar has finally moved on from the politics of caste to that of aspiration.
On paper, the RJD-JD(U)-Congress looks formidable with the supposedly loyal Muslim, Yadav and Kurmi voters who constitute about one-third of the electorate. If the NDA is able to neutralise the caste-based alliance with Modi’s development plank in Bihar where the caste factor has always defined politics, it could compel political parties across the country to re-calibrate their strategies and re-visit their caste-centric politics.
RJD chief Lalu Yadav has termed this election as a Mandal-versus-kamandal contest. A drubbing to Mandalites in Bihar could have serious implications for their counterparts in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh that will go to the polls in 2017.
A victory for them, on the other hand, could be a blow to the BJP’s ambitions in Uttar Pradesh.
Although the Congress does not have much at stake in Bihar, poll results would indicate whether its pro-poor, pro-farmer pitch, including that on land bill, is getting nay resonance from the electorate.