The Bihar assembly poll verdict reinvented the state’s political text: there was a sharp turn from the traditional caste politics to a development-oriented agenda. Like a skilled craftsman, JD(U) chief and NDA leader Nitish Kumar engineered this route change.
During his first term, Kumar remolded many political equations and weaved new ones around the identity, pride, aspirations and dreams of the people of the state. Along with this, he focused on the people, governance, security, development and communal harmony.
Along the way, he did some smart social engineering and also made his programmes inclusive. The process of expanding the party’s social base sucked the numerically smaller, deprived and unmobilised EBCs (32%) and Mahadalits. They discovered their identity, pride and voice and proved to be a formidable votebank for Kumar.
Political mobilisation, awakening and empowerment of women also reaped Kumar rich dividends in the elections. Nearly 55% of women voters including young girls (a rise of 10% over the previous election) turned up to vote and this tilted the scales in favour of the coalition.
Kumar also won the hearts of the Muslims (17%), especially the extremely backward Pasmanda Muslims thanks to a slew of welfare measures: vocational training for girl students, appointment of Urdu teachers, fencing of cemeteries and speedy trials in the Bhagalpur riot cases.
His development agenda was no doubt the main reason behind his spectacular return, but it was also the expansive and aggregated vote spread across all castes and communities that paved the way for the NDA win. The rising popularity graph of Kumar is directly proportional to the development work he has done: building an extensive network of roads and bridges, improving health services, renovation of schools, good governance, and an improved security environment.
The mandate proves that rhetoric and polemics will not work anymore. Perform or perish is the crystal clear message from the voters. Bihar’s electoral mandate will impact the political contours of the country and the electorate will be much more demanding from now on.
DN Sahaya is former governor of Tripura and Chhattisgarh. The views expressed by the author are personal.