Was Bihar an unexceptional election?

In every victory lie the seeds of defeat. And in every defeat there are seeds of victory. I was very young (well below voting age, but already obsessed with politics…lol) in the autumn of 1999 when Vajpayee won a clear majority. All I remember is that there was going to be a BJP sarkar and my mother was very happy ūüôā

Years later, somewhere around 2010, I opened up the Wikipedia article on 1999 Lok Sabha elections and began to look at the numbers. Yes, the BJP had reached a historic high of 182, but look at where those seats had come from:

Andhra Pradesh: BJP 7

Tamil Nadu: BJP 4

West Bengal : BJP 2

Odisha: BJP 9

These were seats coming purely at the mercy of allies like TDP, DMK, BJD and TMC. Once those allies either deserted (like BJD, TMC, DMK) or collapsed themselves (like TDP), the BJP’s tally also collapsed in these states. In reality, Vajpayee’s 1999 mandate was built on sand. Once the arithmetic moved a little, the allies got shuffled, the mandate fell apart.

Modi’s 2014 mandate is made of much harder rock. And that’s not just because of the BJP’s stunning 73/80 tally in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has come to power under Modi by maximizing its core states and establishing itself as dominant in traditional Congress states like Karnataka and Assam. Right now the BJP has just 1 seat in TamilNad compared to 4 in 1999, but even this 1 seat is from the BJP’s own strength, not from allies.¬†I would say this 1 seat in Kanyakumari in Tamilnad is worth much more than the 4 it had in 1999.

However, there was one weakness in the Modi mandate. That was in Bihar, where the NDA’s voteshare (38.8%) was less than the combined voteshare (44.3%) of the RJD+Cong+JDU. A very solid lead of 5.5%. A lot of us believed that a spirited Modi campaign could wipe away this deficit. A lot of them believed that a spirited¬†campaign building on the obvious positives of Nitish Kumar’s Chief Ministership could hold off Modi. In other words, both sides expected this to be an exceptional election. But, what happened is that the electorate saw it as an ordinary election and gave an ordinary verdict.

The Mahagathbandhan’s voteshare fell from 44.3% to 42.1% and the NDA’s vote share fell from 38.8% to 34.4%. The vote gap of 5.5% widened to a gap of 7.7%. What is interesting is that BOTH sides lost votes, which went to local players. This is a well recognized phenomenon. As elections get more local, BOTH¬†the big parties lose voteshare and smaller players get more and more votes. It happens everywhere.¬†There was no switch of voters from NDA to MGB. What this means is that the Dalits who voted for the NDA in 2014 have still preferred NDA to MGB by roughly the same margin in 2015. In fact, the NDA’s vote share of 34.4% is nearly 20% more than the BJP’s core vote bank of upper castes (15%). Whereas the MGB’s 42.1% is barely 7% more than the MGB’s core vote bank of Muslim-Yadav-Kurmi (35%). What this means is that NDA¬†is attracting many more non-caste based voters than the MGB. In other words, the NDA is getting many more “Chemistry votes” and the MGB is getting many more “Arithmetic votes”.

Why do I say that Nitish Kumar’s victory is built on sand? Because an analysis of voteshares shows that the JDU has been decisively pushed to No. 3 in Bihar. First let’s look at the headline voteshares from 2015:

JDU: 16.8%

RJD: 18.6%

BJP: 24.4%

Clearly no. 3. But of course, one would say that the JDU and RJD fought only 100 seats each and so their voteshares would appear artificially lower compared to the BJP which fought 160 seats. Let us ask ourselves: what happens to vote shares in an alliance? The purpose of an alliance between 2 parties is obviously to pool voteshares¬†which will increase seats and strike rate¬†of both.¬†Because the stronger party has more voters, it’s vote share decreases when it fights fewer seats because of the alliance.¬†On the other hand, the weaker party sees its vote share go up. Now watch:

2014         2015

JDU          15.8%            16.8%

RJD            20.1%           18.6%

The alliance causes JDU to gain vote share and RJD to lose vote share. There can no doubt that JDU is the weaker party than the RJD today. Just like politics abhors a vacuum, politics abhors an unnatural distribution of power. Right now, JDU is the weakest party in Bihar but enjoys the highest amount of power. This is unsustainable. The verdict is built on sand.

Like Vajpayee, if Nitish fails to recognize that his “victory” is built on sand, he will be looking at a very long dry spell out of power very soon. And with Nitish’s core votebank of Kurmis at a mere 4-5% of the electorate, once out of power, Nitish may never be able to bounce back.

All this is not meant to console BJP supporters after a humiliating defeat in Bihar. Like I said on Nov 8, the BJP needs to learn the importance of eating humble pie. This is to understand that Nitish Kumar is¬†sitting on a very wobbly throne.¬†In 2005, Nitish Kumar had the benefit of being compared to a disastrous Jangal Raj of Lalu Yadav and his Chief Ministership shone brightly in comparison. All the low hanging fruit has been plucked now. And Lalu Yadav needs to promote his own children. With 80 seats compared to Nitish’s 71, Lalu is under pressure¬†to show himself as the dominant partner. You may say that fear of Modi will keep them together. But you must ask: is the fear of Modi in 2015 even greater than the fear of Indira in 1980? Why did the Janata govt fall apart then?

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “Was Bihar an unexceptional election?

  1. Very insightful analysis. Let us indeed hope that MGB is standing on quicksand.

    The first sentence “… I was very young … in the autumn of 1999 …” gives us an indication of your age. One of these days, you should let us know more about you. A photo in addition to something about yourself would help us connect more ūüôā

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha brother. Well, let me just say I am in a line of work where it is very dangerous to admit to being a Modi supporter. I know people who wanted India to be divided on May 16, 2014 because Modi won. I know people who openly proclaim on their FB timelines that Swachch Bharat cannot succeed because Hindus are inherently filthy people (and get 20+ likes and numerous comments in support of that idea). If you want to see REAL intolerance, come see the people in my line of work. You will never meet a more poisonous bunch of people and their obsessive hatred for Hindu culture. Let’s just say that giving out my real name will instantly be the end of my career. Sorry yaar ūüė¶

      Like

      1. Dear Chaiwallah,

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply, I now understand better. I sincerely hope that one day, your working circumstances will change so that you no longer have to work with these vermin people who hate everything Hindu / Hindustan. I can understand it can be difficult for you to work amongst such people, but I am also guessing that this exactly has led you to make such useful contributions through this blog. Like the lotus in dirty waters, but still not affected by the dirt. Best wishes to you.

        Like

  2. Excellent analysis.

    I feel Lalu and Nitish going to be together at least till 2019 Lok Sabha. Post which Lalu will replace Nitish with himself or, Tejasvi or, Misa. In 4 years cubs will learn to hunt, they will not get a better teacher than Nitish.

    I would rather say Nitish’s political career is on quick sand, he would be used by Lalu in Bihar and other parties at national stage and just at the right time being sidelined. He will miss Sushil Modi and Naval Kishore Yadav a lot in next 5 years and he is definitely going to remember George Fernandes after 2019, irrespective of Modi’s win or loss.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am fairly confident that this government cannot stand 5 years. If it stands till 2019, it can only run on the basis of bad compromises. Ramshackle govt that will allow Modi to sweep Bihar in 2019.

      Like

  3. I see a lot of similarity in Bihar election with situation is “Godfather” novel when a weak, angry, helpless and revengeful person goes to Godfather for help. The Godfather obliges him with a revenge he wanted, but in due time Godfather tries to extract his pound of flesh. Nitish Kumar should be ready to offer Lalu that pound of flesh soon.

    Like

  4. What’s with all these Khans who make millions in a nation that adores them as a movie actor and does not see their religion; yet, they suddenly discover intolerance via MSM while hiding in their palaces and posh cars and want to leave the country – but they never will.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nitish knows he is weak. He nurtures the ambition to become PM. He opposed Modi in 2014. JDU broke away ignoring 27 years of alliance with BJP. After BJP’s victory and clear majority on accont of Modi in May 2014, normally JDU should have reconciled and moved back to BJP. JDU chose otherwise. For the time being Nitish is the CM. The sons of Lalu & Lalu himself will patiently wait is doubtful as they cannot overcome their natural instincts. Habits die hard. Nitish is deeply in trouble. He knows it. He will not be accepted as a PM alternative. If Nitish is really honest, he must be pragmatic and JDU should help Modi in his efforts to build the Nation strong. Winter session will show the intent of Nitish and JDU.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nitish is weak AND he wants to be PM. This is his greatest weakness. If he spends his time looking for support to become PM, the Yadav duo will be running Bihar. I think we have a fairly good idea of what that will look like. Political Pappus have a history of running their administrations to the ground. See Mulayam’s Pappu.

      Like

  6. Contrary to general perception about Delhi and later Bihar debacle of the BJP, I see the results as defeat of the government and the party on broadly two different counts, and would want the saner elements to ponder over. I also understand that may be my little political wisdom is no match to theirs, since I am not in politics, and do hardly know the nuances that collectively go into making a resounding victory out of the apparently no win situation.
    My first perception about these two elections is that the government is too obsessed with high sounding economic issues, tirelessly working to bring Fiscal Deficit under control to bring up the nation as a favored international investment destination and so on, thereby ignoring the immediate needs of common people sleeping on the streets and Foot paths of Delhi, earning barely enough to feed the hungry bellies. Consider that even today around 30% people in India live below the poverty line, finding it immensely difficult to earn Two square meals a day, where children are still begging on Road crossings, girls go around with sacks on their back collecting garbage blowing on the streets of our metros. The imagery of abject poverty can go on, but the main issue is whether the government has been able to understand the immediate aspirations and requirements of these people. If you look into the demography of Delhi, there are distinctly two entirely antithetic and different Delhis living in Delhi. One the original denizens, living here, having a job or business, owning a house etc, so to say even if all of this section is not rich enough, yet is fairly well placed to lead a respectable life. The other Delhi is the large mass of immigrants who have come here from almost all parts of Delhi, who are living in shanties on the roadsides or even living under the bridges, on the Foot Paths and the like, pulling rented rickshaws, selling little tit bits, collecting garbage, and so on, who have with the passage of time come to acquire voting rights within Delhi, and for whom Fiscal Deficit or long term economic policies are of no consequence and concern. This section wants immediate attention, they are the chronic patients, on the death bed, who cannot be treated with Vitamin tablets, but need life saving drugs. That is where a Kejriwal comes to pander to their demands, and to some extent by reducing water and electricity charges exclusively to this section, makes a clean sweep in Delhi, much to the chagrin of BJP who believed that people would look to the economic upsurge of the nation. But sorry BJP, you grossly mishandled the situation, you compromised these people’s craving needs to Fiscal consolidation. Understand Good Economics is not always Good Politics. If you want to remain in power, you will have to attend to this section with greater speed and alacrity. Remember Charles Lamb said hundred years back: “Poor men’s smoky cabins are not always the porticoes of moral philosophy”, this holds good even today. You had 9 months before Delhi polls, you could do wonders, you were running the government in Delhi. I cannot ever come to terms with the fact that if a Kejriwal can subsidize electricity, why couldn’t you? But yes, now rest in peace and enjoy the wisdom of your economic policies, you cannot govern, you cannot control the diverse needs and aspirations of a multiple groups.
    Now coming to second aspect. There is a craving for Hindu votes. A large chunk of BJP supporters believes that Hindus should unite, and for them unity of Hindus would mean voting for BJP. Now this logic is inherently flawed for two reasons. One, think, is there really a HINDU community today? Do the so called HINDU community have anything in common? Do they share same aspirations? Second, even if they are united, why should it mean that their being Hindus obligates upon them to vote for BJP alone, is BJP really a HINDU party, or is it doing enough for HINDUS.
    As far as my reading of diverse nature of Hindus society is concerned, I am pained to find that there is nothing like a Hindu, we are in fact a collection or rather a congregation of diverse heterogeneous CASTE groups, which are antithetic to each other. Each group is trying to propagate its own interest, while at the same time insinuating against the other. The atrocities and persecution inflicted upon Dalits within Hindus shall never let these mutually disrespecting, distrusting and suspecting groups to come together. If you want anything like a Hindu psyche to build, you must strive to bring about a Hindu unification through social transformation of Caste Less society, where people are not discriminated against, so that they believe themselves to be equal partners in the upliftment and well being of Hindu community. Otherwise the call for Hindu unity shall always remain illusive, and the myth shall keep shattering in each successive elections. Also think is the BJP doing anything to make me feel proud of being a Hindu. Has BJP done anything so far which reaffirms my faith in its policies. Has BJP done anything on its poll promises like Uniform Civil Code, Art 370, Ram Mandir. It is not perceptible if even a small step is being initiated in this direction.
    So, it is in BJP’s own interest to discard this rant about Hindu unification and try to bring about a transformation in its approach towards the different communities living in India. Become a party of India, and not of Hindus, and for that purpose if you have to initiate a process of befriending the antagonists, then it should and must be done. Be proactive towards the minorities, not through appeasement, but through education. Initiate a program of outreach to these communities and let them air their suspicions, and address them and mitigate their fears. I can sense that a large section is willing to come to you, and is only waiting for preemptive action on your part. Let the BJP be an all inclusive party, let it not be branded as a communal outfit (Though I am convinced that it is not), but perception has to be changed.
    I hope, better sense will prevail upon the leadership and the supporters and a new resurgent, inclusive BJP shall come up catering to the aspirations of common man for the good of the people at large.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. As far as I know, the BJP government did actually subsidize electricity in the capital and legalize all slums. Freebies were not the issue. The BJP lost the narrative to the negativity of AAPtards and the spirited freshness of Kejriwal. Still wondering why BJP didn’t dissolve Delhi Assembly in June 2014. They would not need to campaign even.

      Like

      1. It was not freshness of Kejriwal, it was inability of BJP to counter the fierceness of AAP campaign. They just couldn’t make up their mind about the strategy to counter the onslaught of AAP – Defense or Offense. In as far as your point regarding subsidizing electricity is concerned, I wish to inform you that 30% subsidy was allocated by previous government, and slums were not regularized (This apparently cannot be done, the financial burden will be humongous.) The BJP lost the fight of perception, they just couldn’t bring about younger group to align with itself and present itself as the party espousing the cause of the young who represent about 65% of electorate, rather retained its old war horses to defend itself. The media strategy of BJP has been questionable, with same faces with no freshness defending itself on varied issues.

        Like

    2. Dear Rajinder sharma,

      The long and deliberate neglect of the congress rule for the past six decades is wholly responsible for the plight of 30% poor to remain poor and the kind of lives they were forced to live in this country. The policies being pursued by the government are the appropriate economic measures for improving the lot of our poor brethren. Penury perpetuated over the decades cannot be wished away in eighteen months. Modi is on the right course. That is why the opportunist opponents are alarmed. The time for us is to be aligned with the present dispensation. The designs of the opposition in all forms is to derail Modi. Let us not lend support unsuspectingly to the evil congress and the rest in their conspiracies. Have faith in your vote cast in May 2014. It was a mandate for the recovery and health of this country. Be watchful and faithful. Please do not waver. Support midway should not become rickety.
      Please think well before you express.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your response. I think from the tone and tenor of my words you did make out my utter dissatisfaction and acute frustration at the devastating defeat of the party in Delhi and Bihar. Delhi defeat should have been an eye opener for the government, and people at the helm of affairs could have realized that political wisdom does not mean dereliction of your core constituency, in pursuit of prudent economic policies. Indian voter has not yet come to understand the subtle nuances of a long term economic policy which indirectly affects them, he is swayed by direct benefits accruing to him on account of change of government at the center. That is what he voted you for. If Dal sells at Rs.200/-, or Onion at Rs.60/-, this does not reflect well on the economic policies of the government. The poor masses are not interested in discussion on Fiscal consolidation, or Current Account Deficit, he is interested in Two square meals a day. Did you ever see a discussion on policies aimed at poor people. Rather every time the FM is seen on the TV, he is besotted with Fiscal Deficit. That does definitely not send good signals down the underbelly of the society. The government must understand that Politics is just not good policies, But MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW YOUR POLICIES AND ACTIONS ARE PERCEIVED IN PUBLIC. With a media strongly against you, are you willing to use different mediums of communication? I still find ministers giving interviews to channels whose anti BJP bias is well known, but still the government is trying to patronize them. Why not come on channels which are sympathetic to you, and use them for propagation of your views. The media representatives of BJP on the TV debates cut a pusillanimous figure against the vociferous, obstreperous, aggressive, high decibel, blatherskite opponents. Can’t the party rethink its media strategies. Remember, the zeitgeist of the day is aggression, fierceness and astute, intelligent, impeccable eloquence with hyperventilating, high sounding speech.
        When a party other than the ruling party is voted to power, the general mood of the electorate is anger and dissatisfaction against the ruling party. And the electorate wants the beneficiaries of the kleptocracy brought to books, to be punished ruthlessly, so that no government distributes largesse to its favored few. But the procrastination of the government in taking strict action against the regime of quid pro quo has left the people disillusioned and frustrated. Learn from the lessons of 2004. A government thrown out of power, because it could not deliver upon its promises. Has the present government not been somersaulting on every important issue: NetaJi Files, List of Black Money Holders, Uniform Civil Code, Ram Mandir, Art 370, to name a few. This continuous veering around is going to cost the government badly. This dilly dallying, lackadaisical, and milquetoast approach allowed a dying party to reorganize, revitalize and reassert itself. Imagine a party decimated to 44 dictating terms to a party with absolute, thumping majority. Why, because the government let the momentum wane. Just look to even NH case. Till date nothing has happened. By the time anything concrete is likely, next election time shall be due. And due to your obsession with long term economic policies in disregard to the desire of 30% population, in these 5 years the amount of money you save shall adversely impact your popularity, and you shall be thrown out of power, leaving behind a robust, thriving economy to your successors to loot and plunder again and use the benefit of the bulging exchequer.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. BJP should plan, strategise and put to effect that opposition instead of being united should be divided unlike as happened in Bihar.States that have voted for BJP should be funded generously . When elections are on anvil prices of essential goods like for eg pulses should be kept in check’ Speedy steps should be taken against the dynasty for scams like the National Herald scam, Vadara’s land deals etc .against MMS for the coal scam , against Mamata for the Sarada scam. BJP spokespersons should desist
    NDTV and India Today which are openly biased against BJP ,

    Like

  8. Thanks for your response. I think from the tone and tenor of my words you did make out my utter dissatisfaction and acute frustration at the devastating defeat of the party in Delhi and Bihar. Delhi defeat should have been an eye opener for the government, and people at the helm of affairs could have realized that political wisdom does not mean dereliction of your core constituency, in pursuit of prudent economic policies. Indian voter has not yet come to understand the subtle nuances of a long term economic policy which indirectly affects them, he is swayed by direct benefits accruing to him on account of change of government at the center. That is what he voted you for. If Dal sells at Rs.200/-, or Onion at Rs.60/-, this does not reflect well on the economic policies of the government. The poor masses are not interested in discussion on Fiscal consolidation, or Current Account Deficit, he is interested in Two square meals a day. Did you ever see a discussion on policies aimed at poor people. Rather every time the FM is seen on the TV, he is besotted with Fiscal Deficit. That does definitely not send good signals down the underbelly of the society. The government must understand that Politics is just not good policies, But MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW YOUR POLICIES AND ACTIONS ARE PERCEIVED IN PUBLIC. With a media strongly against you, are you willing to use different mediums of communication? I still find ministers giving interviews to channels whose anti BJP bias is well known, but still the government is trying to patronize them. Why not come on channels which are sympathetic to you, and use them for propagation of your views. The media representatives of BJP on the TV debates cut a pusillanimous figure against the vociferous, obstreperous, aggressive, high decibel, blatherskite opponents. Can’t the party rethink its media strategies. Remember, the zeitgeist of the day is aggression, fierceness and astute, intelligent, impeccable eloquence with hyperventilating, high sounding speech.
    When a party other than the ruling party is voted to power, the general mood of the electorate is anger and dissatisfaction against the ruling party. And the electorate wants the beneficiaries of the kleptocracy brought to books, to be punished ruthlessly, so that no government distributes largesse to its favored few. But the procrastination of the government in taking strict action against the regime of quid pro quo has left the people disillusioned and frustrated. Learn from the lessons of 2004. A government thrown out of power, because it could not deliver upon its promises. Has the present government not been somersaulting on every important issue: NetaJi Files, List of Black Money Holders, Uniform Civil Code, Ram Mandir, Art 370, to name a few. This continuous veering around is going to cost the government badly. This dilly dallying, lackadaisical, and milquetoast approach allowed a dying party to reorganize, revitalize and reassert itself. Imagine a party decimated to 44 dictating terms to a party with absolute, thumping majority. Why, because the government let the momentum wane. Just look to even NH case. Till date nothing has happened. By the time anything concrete is likely, next election time shall be due. And due to your obsession with long term economic policies in disregard to the desire of 30% population, in these 5 years the amount of money you save shall adversely impact your popularity, and you shall be thrown out of power, leaving behind a robust, thriving economy to your successors to loot and plunder again and use the benefit of the bulging exchequer.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s