Bihar rout rings alarm bells for Modi-Shah duo – Party must shun the ”fringe” and get back to core agenda

Bihar rout rings alarm bells for Modi-Shah duo - Party must shun the ”fringe
Bihar rout rings alarm bells for Modi-Shah duo - Party must shun the ”fringe" and get back to core agenda

New Delhi

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]s crackers went off across the country, mocking BJP president Amit Shah’s jibe that Pakistan will celebrate if BJP loses in Bihar, the resounding defeat of the BJP-led NDA will have serious repercussions for leaders like him as well as the party and the Central government.

To start with, the Prime Minister will have to bear the brunt of the attack from the opposition since Narendra Modi invested a great deal of political capital in Bihar, holding as many as thirty rallies – perhaps the highest number of public meetings addressed by a PM in a state election. In doing so, the PM involuntarily pitched the election as an ego combat between him and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The PM’s vicious personal attack on Nitish, and his repeated reference to the cancelation of a dinner hosted for him by the Bihar CM in 2010 as an insult to a leader of the extremely backward caste, showed the desperation of the PM to settle personal scores against a man who had pulled out of the NDA over Modi’s projections as its PM candidate.

The PM’s criticism of Nitish Kumar’s DNA over the Bihar leader’s frequent “betrayal” of his political friend, was such a personal attack that Nitish went all over the state asking the voters to teach a lesson to the PM for “insulting” the Bihari pride.

But the poll was more than a slugfest between two individuals. It was a mini general election of sorts. The voters may have merely elected a chief minister, but the message from Bihar will resonate across the country. Skeptics are not only going to claim that the `Modi wave’ was finally on the decline but some will also question its very existence. The fact that BJP failed to win both Delhi and Bihar where it was not pitted against the Congress, would prompt people to claim that the `Modi wave’ was a creation of his spin doctors.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he Bihar result will ignite a fresh debate if the massive victory of the BJP in Lok Sabha election was the result of a pro-Modi wave or public outcry against the corrupt and ineffective Manmohan Singh-led Congress government. The Bihar loss is going to give voice to those who always claimed that `Modi was incidental to the BJP’s victory, for if he had such mass appeal why did BJP lose in non-Congress ruled states, The BJP did win Jharkhand election against the JMM(S)- led alliance, but the margin of victory was the narrowest and the party could not get majority on its own.

It is a well-known fact that several senior leaders from North India do not like Shah’s complete domination of the party.

Had the Congress not walked out of the alliance and turned the contest a into a triangular one, the outcome could have been different.

Question about the ‘Modi wave; will also be asked in the contest of BJP’s disastrous performance in the recent panchayat elections in Modi’s Lok Saba constituency of Varanasi and also the party’s lost in his adopted village, too.

Modi’s rallies in Bihar were big but voters were not ready to oblige him again. The tall promises Modi made in Lok Sabha polls are haunting him now. Unemployed youth are asking where are millions of Jobs that Modi promised, and the poor want to know when they will get their share of the black money—and when they will be able to savor ‘dal’ again.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he erosion of Modi’s appeal will ring alarm bells in the party which is dominated by armchair intellectuals and leaders with little mass appeal. Most of Modi’s ministers’ are from Rajya sabha, who cannot win even municipal elections. To that extent, the loss should force the BJP to rethink over its excessive reliance on Modi, who is a highly polarizing figures.

And polarization can cut both ways, the BJP must have learned this lesson from Bihar..

Party president Amit Shah’s style of functioning will also come under scrutiny though not many within BJP have the gumptions to openly question him. It’s a different matter that a section of the party feels that Shah is too inaccessible and brusque to head an organization that draws its strength from millions of cadres. Shah’s proximity with Modi makes him an awe-inspiring figure whose word is like God’s own command in both the party and the government. Shah’s style of campaign which was focused on `negative’ propaganda and marginalization of Bihar leaders , are already being discussed in the party. A group of leaders like `Bihari Babu’ Shatrughan Sinha and former Home Secretary RK Singh have come out in open against the functioning of the BJP under Shah.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]hah’s position could also become untenable because Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav were successful in projecting the Shah-Modi pair as “Gujarati” to stoke the flames of Bihari sub-nationalism. The BJP could face similar sub-nationlism challenge from its opponents in other forthcoming state elations as well.

It is a well-known fact that several senior leaders from North India do not like Shah’s complete domination of the party. Now that Shah has lost his Midas touch, knives will be out for him, though it could be a while before his position could be seriously endangered. Modi is unlikely to trust anyone else to head the party, for he would like to control both the Government and organization the way he did in Gujarat for 15 years.

The defeat will also have a bearing on BJP relations with the RSS. Most of the BJP leaders feel that RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remark on `reservation’ cooked the BJP goose. But few in the party have the courage to even convey such a view (with the Mute button on) to the Sangh patriarch. However, sooner or later the party will have to decide if it wants to go with the Hindutva agenda of the RSS or development agenda of the Prime Minister.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he RSS thinks that the BJP’s massive victory in the Lok sabha polls was due to the Sangh Parivar’s mobilization of the Hindus across the nation. There are many who also feel that the stunning victory in Uttar Pradesh where the party won 73 out of 80 Lok sabha seats was possible mainly due to the Muzaffarnagar riots, which polarized the Hindus.

The defeat should open the eyes of those who went out of the way to polarize the Bihar polls in a similar way. Prime minister himself waded into the “beef eating” controversy in election speeches; senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi described the elections as a battle between those who eat beef and those who do not; and the party took the unprecedented step of publishing brazenly communal “cow” advertisements for which the Election Commission even filed an FIR against it.

The Bihar defeat should open the eyes of such forces. India cannot be ruled by ‘fringe’ elements’ – and it will always be loved and adored for its unity in diversity.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he defeat should also spur the Modi government to open a dialogue with all those people protesting against the growing instances of intolerance. Many of these elements may have their own political agenda to embarrass Modi. The BJP per se may not have been involved in such instances, but it is a fact that several fringe outfits of the Sangh Parivar have created an atmosphere where both freedom of expression and freedom to pick up one’s own menu and life style are threatened. These lunatics do not realize that India can never become a land of Talibans where you can get away by whipping a couple for strolling in the park or holding hands on the Valentine day. The Modi government will have to take a call after the Bihar defeat whether it want to remain hostage to these primitive forces or take the country into the sunshine of development and freedom.

The adverse outcome will also come in the way of expediting economic reform measure as the opposition will be emboldened to stall legislative measures to prove that the Government has failed to deliver on its key agenda. It will be important for the Prime Minister to reach out to the opposition. Modi should take personal lead in this matter because many of his stalwarts were actively involved in not letting the parliament run for months when the Congress was in power. Then their heart never bled for the development of the country. Since Modi was not part of that brigade, he can admit that mistakes was made in the past and direct that his party not to engage in ‘ destructive ‘politics in state assemblies where BJP was in the opposition. The BJP cannot hope to gain the cooperation of the opposition in Delhi and create chaos in assemblies elsewhere.

The victory will also galvanize the Opposition for the upcoming state assembly pollas next year. Four states—Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal—will go to polls in 2016.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he BJP has no chance to capture power in any of them except Assam. That means, after Bihar the BJP stares at a series of defeats that could further demorlize the party ahead of the crucial Uttar Pradesh election in 2017. In that sense, the loss in the battle of Bihar is a devastating one for the BJP, Modi and the economy.

The Bihar defeat would also reflect on the way the world looks at Modi. A “ defeated” Modi will not hold the same magnetic charm for the international business community, which looked at him as a ‘savior’ of India’s economic progress. Now that questions will be raised against the possibility of him getting a second term as the PM to give continuity to economic reforms, the impact of `Modi magic’ on Indian economy will never be the same.

Navin is a senior journalist with years of experience in covering India’s Capital city. His keen observations and ability to create the big picture from disparate pieces of information is invaluable.
Navin Upadhyay


  1. BJP needs to focus on just DEVELOPMENT !!! that is the only thing which can unite hindus 1> BJP needs to go firm and ruthless on development agenda . Development means clearly ‘ a> water’ for irrigation , b> rural roads (not just highways- remember the spectacular failure of india shining) c> and electricity . Ensure 24 hour electricity and 100% water for irrigation otherwise bjp should be ready to lose power in 2019, then let khangress destroy the country for 10 more years. 2> Swach bharat and jan dhan yogna, social security schemes are definitely good but not ‘sufficient’ to get votes they are just addons. They will just look good on top of bijli-sadak- paani not just by themselves . 3> The only thing which can unite hindus is the development and real development. Dont make the same mistake of NDA-1 govt where they built highways and thought that would win them back. Highways are important but sorry highways dont give water to the dying farmers nor electricity. Just replicate the gujarat development where 85% have surface water for irrigation 4> Fire The I&B ministre Jaitley who is completely failed to handle the media. His complex english words are something no one can understand. Get somebody like Smiriti irani who destroyed Rajdeep in a recent interview or somebody like Subramanian swamy. It needs someone who can focus on facts and destroy the opposition with their oratory skills. 5> Fire people like Raguram rajan who are snakes in BJPs own backyard and talk about intolerence where as he has kept the interest rate at 12% for industries at a time when inflation is < 5%. Fire Jaitley as finance minister who is still not going against Rajan and has failed to bring back any black money. So clean up and act fast !!!


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