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

Bihar Poll Results

Monday 16 November 2015, by Barun Das Gupta

Suddenly the spell-binder finds that his spell has been broken. The dream merchant, who peddled his never-to-be-realised dreams very successfully just a year ago, suddenly finds that there are no buyers for his wares. Suddenly one discovers that the people are not so gullible as one had thought. Suddenly the bakers of Nagpur, specialising in making hate-cakes, find these are getting mouldy, they are not selling.

Why have things changed so completely in just a year-and-a-half’s time? The people found out that Modi was not the Messiah they thought he was, taken in first, by their revulsion to the mega corruptions that the Congress and its allies had indulged in during the ten years of UPA rule, and second, by his consummate demagoguery.

The veneer of demagoguery has worn off, exposing the stark reality. Inflation has not been tamed. The ceaseless official propaganda about the wholesale price index (WPI) constantly coming down is not reflected in the consumer price index (CPI). Prices of all consumer goods, including food articles, are going up and up. Demand recession continues. Despite the five per cent reduction in corporate tax (amounting to Rs 2 lakhs in four years till 2019) there has been no spurt in investments. Many corporate bodies show a decline in profit. The ‘aggressive’ foreign policy initiatives taken by Modi have not proved much successful,. Russia has started military assistance to Pakistan. The United States is trying to conclude a civil nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan despite its well-known record of building up its nuclear armoury feverishly.

The people of Bihar, like the rest of the people of India, were keenly watching the developments and coming to their own conclusions that were grossly at variance with the official propaganda. The rising communal intolerance and targeting members of the minority community did not go down well with them. Ban on beef-eating was to them an unnecessary provocation and a crude Executive intrusion into personal freedom of choice of diet. They decided to reaffirm their faith in a secular and plural India. The BJP, which mounted a propaganda blitzkrieg with Modi as its main mouthpiece, and its spending of money like water proved to be of no avail in the end. Nor the blatant attempts to polarise the electorate on religious lines. After this disaster, Modi will find it difficult to pursue his pro-corporate policy which has already led to rising prices.

Indeed, nothing availed. All the prophecies of a convincing BJP win being confidently predicted by the TV media and by that shameless breed of propagandists who masquerade as psepho-logists, proved to be propaganda and nothing else. The noisiest drummer-boy of the BJP, the modern-day Lord Haw Haw of the electronic media, was found ‘explaining’ the BJP defeat as a result of the RSS deciding to ‘cut Modi to size’ because he was supposed to have become too big for Nagpur to stomach. He, of course, chose not to mention the indiscretion of the Sangh Sarsanghchalak who opined that the time had come for a ‘review’ of the reservation policy. Nor did he mention the damaging effect that Amit Shah’s off-the-cuff remark—that if the BJP was defeated in Bihar, crackers would be burst in Pakistan—had on the people of Bihar. They took it as an insufferable insult because what Shah said amounted to damning every Bihari who voted against the BJP as a Pakistani agent. In a way, that obiter dictum of Shah was also the first indication that the BJP was fearing a defeat in the polls. Modi had predicted that the BJP would win two-thirds of the seats. In fact it happened the other way round: it is the alliance led by Nitish which won a two-thirds majority.

Several lessons have to be drawn from the Bihar outcome. First, that if all the secular and democratic forces unite, it is possible to stop the BJP/RSS juggernaut. Maintaining the unity of these forces is an imperative if Indian democracy is to be saved. Secondly, it also shows that in the last seven decades secular and democratic values have been imbibed by the people and it will not be possible even for a cadre-based organisation like the RSS to vitiate the atmosphere by spreading communal poison. Thirdly, it further underlines the need of raising a body of volunteers who are imbued with the secular spirit. These volunteers will have to counter the teachings and preachings of the BJP at the grassroots level on a day-to-day basis just as RSS shakhas do all the year round. Unfortunately, no political party has so far paid any attention to this aspect.

Now the Congress as an all-India party and the main Opposition party in Parliament will have to take the initiative of extending the secular-democratic unity to other States as well, by winning over the regional parties to form an all-India alliance, not just to defeat the BJP in the 2019 parliamentary elections (which are still a far way off), but to build up a broad-based national alliance of secular and democratic forces. Only such an alliance can combat the Sangh Parivar effectively.

Lastly, the Bihar elections have also exposed the political bankruptcy of the Left. Instead of supporting, if not joining, the Nitish-led alliance, the Left chose to go it alone which objectively meant supporting the BJP by splitting the anti-BJP vote, to howsoever small a degree. In a closely fought election, even one or two per cent swing may cause a huge difference in the number of seats won. The Left of course did a patriotic act by contributing generously to the State exchequer by forfeiting their security deposits in most constituencies! Will the Left never learn?

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.