Bihar results have busted the myth of Modi wave. It is becoming increasingly clear that even in the 2014 parliamentary elections the swing in favour of Modi was not a positive Modi wave in that sense. Modi just came in to fill the vacuum created by complete abdication of responsibility and accountability by the triumvirate of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
Subsequently, Modi-Shah duo in last one and half years have combined the ills of both the Congress and the BJP and divorced themselves from the virtues of these two parties. Historically, BJP has, to a certain extent, relied upon communal tension as a tool of political mobilization. The BJP under Modi-Shah worked on this pernicious strategy assiduously in last one and half years without realizing that this strategy is severely limited by the law of diminishing returns as established by Bihar election results.
India in last sixty five years, has become politically decentralized. One of the reasons for the decline of the Congress and the rise of the BJP in last three decades has been that the BJP has had robust state leadership whereas the Congress has had a strong high command culture and has been largely run from Delhi by the courtiers of Nehru-Gandhi family who relied upon the imagined charisma of the dynasty.
The Modi-Shah combine misread the 2014 elections as a positive Modi wave and thought that they would win elections in the name of Modi the way the Congress used to win in the name of Indira Gandhi. In the process, they seriously undermined serious state leaders like Harsvardhan in Delhi and Shushil Modi and others in Bihar. They have paid the price heavily in both elections. Nothing was more incongruous than posters of Amit Shah all over these two states during elections, replacing the state leaders.
I am surprised how Modi, whose biggest qualification is marketing, overlooked the fact that Shah’s posters could not have been used to win elections in these two heavily politicized states.
The Bihar election results, hopefully, will put a break on the nutty behavior of fringe elements of the BJP. However the centrist, liberal sections of India should not celebrate. This election would have been closer if the Modi-Shah combine had not made so many mistakes such as sidelining state leaders, making the campaign Modi-centric and replacing development by Hindutva as the core election issue.
India essentially is a centrist, liberal society which eschews extremism. Modi and the BJP have become the most important poles of Indian politics not by any great work done by them. That has happened because of the decline of the centrist, liberal forces.
The Congress party is the mother of all ailments of Indian public life - corruption, criminalization, communalism, chamchagiri, dynasty etc. The moral, intellectual and organizational decline of the Congress party seems irreversible in spite of small gains made by them in Bihar. The gains in Bihar for the Congress are largely because of Lalu and Nitish. The other forces from the centrist spectrum of Indian polity such as the RJD, the SP, the DMK etc. have matched the Congress in corruption: paisa to paisa. They did well, earlier, in successfully challenging one limb of Indian feudalism – upper caste dominance. However, they have strengthened the other limb of feudalism – family raj/ dynastic raj. This has lead to crisis of new leadership which is not emerging in these parties. That is crippling the organizational structure. Even Mamta, who is not married and thus one would have imagined would not perpetuate family raj has found a nephew to do so. The crisis of centrist, liberal forces has deepened in recent times.
Nitish has won and will be the chief minister. But Lalu has won with a bigger margin and has his children as deputy chief minister and minister. Nitish would also have to keep obliging Congress as a thank you gesture to the party for prevailing upon Lalu to accept him as the chief ministerial candidate. He has promised to deliver good governance with two most corrupt and dysfunctional parties as his alliance partners. All these three parties in recent history have been in a position to rule Bihar on their own. The fact that they all had to come together to fight the BJP says a lot about the bankruptcy of current liberal/ centrist forces.
Those who worry for India would have to think seriously about who are the new forces who would show the light to our polity.