five-main-takeaways-from-the-bihar-election-results

Main takeaways from the recently concluded Assembly elections in Bihar.

  • First, somewhat to the dismay of his detractors, the popularity of Narendra Modi seems to be a stable factor in the BJP’s electoral politics. So much so that he has transformed into a brand. Like a brand, he can be used in any state, any context and against any competition. While this continues to be great news for the BJP, it must also worry the party’s core strategists.
  • If Modi were to fail, the BJP’s electoral politics would suddenly crumble. Besides, and perhaps even more serious for the party, Modi represents practically everything — and, in the end, therefore, nothing.
  • Second, Bihar brought out both the benefits and tensions of coalitions. For the BJP, coalitions are a temporary tactic while for non-BJP parties, they are a life-support. Despite voter fatigue vis-a-vis Nitish Kumar, in Bihar, the BJP chose to avoid that temptation and maintained the alliance. Now, having shown Nitish where he stands, the relationship between the BJP and JDU will be something to watch.
  • Third, it is not merely about coalitions as a theoretical requirement or political virtue — the issue is winning states. “Bihar, at the cusp of the north and east, represents an important territorial ambition. The marginalisation of Nitish means that the BJP now has a more straightforward contender to defeat – the RJD. In that sense, stealing Nitish Kumar from the MGB in 2017 has shown that the BJP understands the importance of being in power.
  • Fourth, a question that has vexed observers is the BJP’s efforts to retain its core Hindutva ideology and, at the same time, adapt to the state-specificity of electoral politics. So far, the BJP has not been able to entirely set aside local narratives, imageries and issues. It can fulfil its ambition only if it can superimpose over most geographic regions of the country its overarching idea of Hindu India.
  • Finally, and again without reference to the victory or loss of the NDA in Bihar, elections in the state and the party’s performance should convince analysts who continue to be sceptical about the future dominance of the BJP. Modi was successful not only in getting his party re-elected but in improving its performance.