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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 47 New Delhi, November 14, 2015

Bihar Speaks

Monday 16 November 2015, by Arup Kumar Sen

The massive victory of the Laloo-Nitish coalition in the Bihar Assembly elections signifies a verdict against the politics of hate and intolerance preached by the Modi-Amit Shah regime after the BJP came to power. It is also significant that the electoral verdict has belied the electoral forecasts of the corporatised media. The lone exit poll, the Axis exit poll, had predicted 169-183 seats for the grand Laloo-Nitish alliance, but its tally was withheld by CNN-IBN. The channel advertised the poll as the biggest post-poll exercise, but backed out at the last minute. The said exit poll followed the simple methodology of conducting face-to-face interviews with the voters in each constituency and ensured that the composition of the sample reflected the demography of the constituency.1 In fact, our sophisticated methods of political analysis often fail to comprehend the popular perceptions of caste, religion and vikas, which ultimately decided the political outcome in Bihar. Moreover, it goes without saying that the big media plays a big role in manufacturing consent in favour of the dominant power elites.

The eminent political observers of Bihar politics are now trying to grasp the meaning of the poll verdict in Bihar. To put it in the words of Shaibal Gupta, “The outcome of the 2015 Bihar Assembly election has scripted a new grammar of politics in India.” He observed in this connection that the Laloo-Nitish alliance received massive support from women, lower backward castes and Dalits. It should be noted here that while only nine per cent of Bihar’s women in the age-group of 15-59 years participates in ‘economic activity’, 60 per cent of the State’s female electors voted this time.2 Furthermore, we should keep in mind that Bihar is a ‘backward’ State in terms of the mainstream parameters of development. It testifies that there is no essential connection between ‘development’ and the cosmopolitan notion of collective politics.

There may be several explanations for the poll verdict in Bihar. One major reason behind the landslide victory of the Nitish- Laloo alliance is the “extraordinary political culture” that Bihar has created in the past three decades. One should give credit to both Nitish and Laloo for nurturing this political culture and making Bihar free of massive communal violence. They politically worked well together in the present election, marrying Nitish’s governance persona with Laloo’s social base and organisation.3

It is difficult to predict how the Nitish-Laloo alliance will work out in the coming days. But, there is no doubt that the Bihar verdict will impact upon our national politics and political developments in other States in significant ways.


1. See The Indian Express, November 9, 2015.

2. Ibid.

3. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “A Vote against Hubris” in ibid.