It’s Nitish again in Bihar. But this time, it’s a mandate that has come with many firsts.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s ruling coalition won 206 seats in the 243-member assembly, the best-ever performance by any alliance or party in Bihar. The Janata Dal (United) improved its seat tally from 88 in 2005 to 115 in this election. Its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tally jumped from 55 in 2005 to 91 this election – in what is said to be a record in recent times.
The six-phase elections saw no cases of booth capturing or polling day violence – a first in many decades. In a state ridden with feudal practices, more women than men showed up to vote in a large number of constituencies.
But the most striking aspect of the mandate is the change it has brought to the vocabulary of politics in the country’s most impoverished state – development for all, replacing social engineering for some.
The biggest casualty of this change was Lalu Prasad and his Rashtriya Janata Dal, which returned a score that barely qualified it put up an opposition leader in the new assembly. The RJD and its alliance partner Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won 25 seats, compared to 64 in last elections. Worse, the RJD supremo’s wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi lost both seats — home town Raghopur and Sonepur — that she contested.
Despite the large crowds that Rahul Gandhi drew at every rally he addressed, the Congress party managed to win four seats, compared to nine in 2005. Independent candidates and other parties won eight seats, down from 27 in last elections.
The JD (U) - BJP combine beat its rivals hands down across regions, demographies, social and religious groups, in a win that far outstripped RJD’s 1995 tally of 167 seats and Congress party’s 1951 win of 72% seats in a bigger assembly of united Bihar.
In short, it was a mandate for Brand Nitish.
The 59-year-old leader pushed a development agenda that deftly balanced the concerns of all such groups that had been left out of the social engineering Bihar saw in the past two decades, while not ignoring the expectations of the relatively more privileged sections of the society.
During his five-year rule, he carefully crafted and nurtured a political strategy that put extremely backward castes and women at its core, assured the muslims and kept alive aspirations among urban middle class.
“This is a mandate for development. This is a victory of the people of Bihar, not of the NDA,” said Kumar, after he met governor and resigned. He is scheduled to take oath of office on Friday.
Kumar promised to live up to expectations.
“They want to go forward, not back to the dark times,” he said referring to people of Bihar. “I promise to work harder than I did over the last five years. No one will be left out of our development initiatives.”