In the first part, I dealt with the change of pattern in the voting with preferences of youth changing fast. In any election voters play a crucial role but role of leaders can not be overlooked. Usually, in a generalized scenario there would two to three or maximum four crucial players that influence the pattern of voting. They are established leaders or proven administrators who depend on propagating their past growth story or criminals in the guise of politicians and some convicts too that depend on vote banks like caste and religion. In Bihar, there are a few fringe players who are non-serious outsiders, who, though not contesting polls, may be able to swing voters. Let us examine the players and their role play and and whether they can put up a grand Opera Show, deciding the final outcome. Opera is a time-tested show that people enjoy without so much following what the actors are saying. I too like it.
Let us go from the down to the top, starting with the fringe players and ending with Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, the main players in the show.
1. ARVIND KEJRIWAL:
Nitish kumar met Arvind Kejriwal four times officially, as per Media reports. And the naturally anti Modi media gave good coverage to the events. Arvind Kejriwal who positions himself as the main anti-Modi leader, that thinks he is only capable of defeating him at his game, promised he wont contest the Bihar elections, thus ensuring that the few hundreds or tens of voters of AAP will not get divided. This is, to say the least, a maniacal thinking. There are three possibilities. They follow the leader and vote Janata Pariwar, abstain or defy him and vote NDA. His is whimsical thinking. And Bihar is not Delhi where street side meetings and Mohalla Sabhas influence voters. May be Kejriwal and Nitish realize this at the appropriate time.
The other reason that Media floated as a theory why Nitish met Kejriwal was to swing the families of million odd voters that voted to AAP in Delhi polls. This is obviously an idea of the poll manager of Nitish, who earlier worked with Modi and saw large numbers of families of migrants from Gujarat voting Modi both in UP and Bihar.
There are two differences. Modi proved to be non-corrupt and his zero tolerance to corruption saw Gujarat develop fast. Moreover, he never divided people into classes like Autowallahs, Taxiwallahas, Middle classes, upper classes, to win votes of groups, called vote banks. Most of the migrants from UP and Bihar to Delhi must have settled as drivers as it is in Mumbai and others blue/white collared middle classes/upper classes. These people voted in favor of AAP as he promised Heaven. He kept up the promise for few days but his running feud with Delhi police caught most of them between the devil and deep sea. So, he had to reverse his stand and issue orders for a week-long drive against errant drivers. This was done in view of mounting opposition from blue collared and white collared middle classes. Did he lose both? Time will tell. And with no change in their living standards, it is a billion dollar question these million will influence their families as Gujarati settlers did. They enjoyed the fruits for long.
When MGR, NTR, Jayalalita etc., stormed to power in South they tried their hand, immediately after polls, to influence voters in neighboring states where settlers from one state to the other go in larger numbers, they failed to garner many votes. They could not influence even voters in the border areas. Each state has its specific issues and Delhi is too far from Bihar.
If Kejriwal wanted to influence middle class voters with his honesty mask,the Tomars, the Sisodias and others who were in the news for wrong reasons did not help his cause. he is treated as any other politician. His running feud with the LG and the many cases in courts against his government and personally against himself only distanced him from educated classes more.
In a nutshell, Kejriwal may prove a liability than an asset to Nitish. Added to this, if JDU mobilizes huge crowds for AK rally, which sure it will do, it will anger Lalu more that he was being ignored. (If AK shares stage wth Lalu his influence will further dent and before Punjab polls) That will be rubbing salt on his wounds. He may further sabotage the Pariwar chances. This will be a big blow.
2. MULAYAM SIGH YADAV:
Mulayam is known to change his political stance at the drop of a hat. There is nor rhyme nor reason why he does this. His stand in Parliament of not pressing for resignation of Sushma Jee is an example. He knows that the issue of Chief Ministers can not be discussed in Parliament and so as far as he is concerned he is exactly opposite the Congress here, with whom he wanted Nitish to tie up in Bihar. With his wobbling stand, the position of JDU too became precarious and Congress was as good as isolated in LS on Friday. One stark reality he knows is that Congress is a deeply wounded horse and that party is doing nothing to heal the wounds at micro level. so tying up with Congress deeply at this stage hurts him in UP, where he may not go with Congress. So, role of Mulayam was limited in forcing Lalu to accept Nitish as CM candidate that he immediately described as "drinking poison". MSY may not further interfere in the covert feud between the two powerful forces in Bihar and spoil his own chances in UP. So, he is neither an asset nor a liability, but an audience in the Opera show.
3. THE THACKERAYS
Surprised? I too was, till I heard two personal drivers talking politics. These two hail from UP. One was before LS polls. He saw one Government Board with senior Thackeray's name and asked me, " Is it not wrong to name government institutions after names of politicians?" I told him many governments do it and quoted example of Congress. "We do not like it, sir"., he said. The migrants issue is a burning issue in Mumbai and we know the stand of Shiva Sena and MNS on this. It paid political dividends to them.
But how does this help NDA or to say BJP in Bihar? Two negatives make a positive in Mathematics. So too, in politics. BJP went alone in LS polls in Maharashtra. That was a political master stroke. SS has its core vote bank. BJP could not have harmed it. BJP gained in Maharashtra and North by distancing temporarily with SS and not tying up with MNS. it paid dividends. Both again reconciled and overtly running a Government of uneasy relationship. This helped keep Congress and NCP far from each other. Both can not live without power. So the distance is growing. So, the few thousand votes that NCP has in Bihar may not go to the Pariwar after all. This is one negative to the Pariwar.
Shiva Sena is still in an overt war with BJP in Maharashtra and Press and Media are giving extensive coverage to this. Whether it is true or contrived until NDA gets majority in RS by winning UP and Bihar, time only will tell. But the message goes down well. As SS has virtually no presence in Bihar, the natural choice of voters will be BJP and not Pariwar. Migrants never felt safe under NCP+Congress rule, as they are now. This is another negative for Pariwar. The effort of Nitish to come to Mumbai to woo migrants may not fructify if he fights along with Congress and also may act as a deterrent.
One more example, though isolated. One of my kin booked to and fro flight tickets to his driver when he could not get train tickets during summer season to visit family. It was given free without asking.He says the whole village is elated that people really have changed after Modi has taken over. He also tells that all drivers decided to work more hours and would convince their employers to contribute to their flight charges every year. And surprisingly he says these people really feel Modi is being heard by middle/upper classes "Sab Ka saath; Sab ka vikas" Such subtle messages pass through these circles very fast and add to the strength of the winning combination.
4. RAHUL GANDHI AND INC INDIA:
From the Vice President of a party that ruled the nation for six decades, to a fringe player in national and state politics, the journey of Rahul downhill is very steep and fast. To make him more of a leader he was sent on sabbatical for two months (what is told to us). After coming back he started talking. Media went gung ho. "Here comes the leader." But, alas! He reminded a comic story doing rounds in my childhood.
A guy who wanted to learn English went on sabbatical for two months like Rahul. The Guru tried to teach him English. His efforts were futile. Vexed, he told him three words, "Yes, No, Alright". He got them by heart. As he was going home a theft took place. Policeman saw this guy on the road and asked him. "Did you steal the chain?" He replied, "Yes". Then he asked, "Will you return the chain?" He replied, "No". The police asked him finally, "Will you go jail?" he said, "Alright".
Anyone who observed the post - sabbatical Rahul will know he learned few words and not even sentences and is using them where ever he goes. One example is he goes to small agitating groups and tells them, "I will stand with you 24 hours till your fight ends". He goes and sleeps in a seven star accommodation. The fighters continue their fight and he is never seen even sitting, let alone standing.
Congress is yet to formally join the Pariwar Their only concern seems to be to save skins from investigations and possible charge sheets in 2016 July, when NDA gets majority in RS too with pliable new allies, who are ready to support them to save their own skins. The battle of wits starts then. Immediate fall -out of the NH case will be serious if charges are framed on 2nd September this year and most likely Congress will be isolated again giving Lalu a stick to beat Nitish with and divide the Pariwar vertically. Hopefully, this internecine war within Pariwar intensifies as days pass by and Lalu skipping Sonia Iftar lock, stock and barrel has been the prologue to the Opera.
So, Congress and Rahul will be the biggest liabilities whether inside or outside the Pariwar. It is bad news for Nitish.
5. JITAN RAM MANJHI:
Few outside Bihar would have heard his name had he not been made CM by Nitish, an emulation of Sonia experiment at the Centre to run Government by proxy. But Nitish proposed, Manjhi disposed. Within few months he was not only firmly in the saddle but started ignoring his mentor in as much as reversing a few decisions of Nitish but also taking decisions that were not palatable to him. Here, Nitish made a mistake. Seeing the overtures of BJP to Manjhi he was paranoid of a split in his own party and with two governments at Centre and state led by BJP, he was afraid that popular decisions would follow soon, eclipsing him as "Savior of Bihar". But, at the opportune moment BJP backtracked and lot of drama followed in unseating Manjhi that cost Nitish politically. Manjhi proved to be an honest politician who overtly seemed working for the lowest strata at the same time keeping middle classes in good books. He is a powerful, witty orator as we saw in Mujaffarnagar the other day. His ubiquitous smile on face is an added advantage compared to Nitish, who has a serious visage and too serious to be witty. Manjhi in the opposite camp is a liability to the Pariwar.
6. RAM VILAS PASWAN:
He is a veteran of many battles and partner in many camps. A single leader party, he carries a vote share of 4.5 to 7% in Bihar that is handy for any combination. Moreover he is a Minister at the Centre, a position politicians use to lure voters. All in the game. He is a powerful orator, presently non-controversial because of Modi diktat. So, he is an asset to NDA and liability to the Pariwar.
He is a good Parliamentarian. powerful speaker with no group behind him. His oratory is an added advantage to Pariwar. He is a veteran of many battles and a strategist. But how far he will adjust with Nitish Kumar is a billion dollar question. Both are egoists and do not see eye to eye on many issues. It has to be seen whether he can be real asset to the Pariwar. He too is unblemished in his career but does not carry a pan Bihar image, confined to national politics for most of the time.
8. SUSHILKUMAR MODI:
The soft spoken, hard working Sushil Kumar Modi, the most likely CM if NDA wins. is loved by Biharis. He was Dy CM, who is seen as one of the driving forces in the success of Nitish. He rarely enters controversies, nor issues controversial statements. There were no charges of corruption or nepotism on him and it is not surprising that 42% of Biharis prefer him as CM, next only to Nitish. This count may be more or increase as poll heat picks up. Being Modi, the Kejriwal suggeestion that it should be Modi vs Nitish in Bihar may boomerang, as there are two most acceptable Modis in the NDA camp. The gamble may simply not work here. Moreover, in his first speech itself Modi made it look like the war is Modi vs Nitish. He taunted Nitish enough to take the gauntlet. No wonder both Lalu and Nitish issued strong rejoinders to him. Modi blew the War Conch for the war between him and Nitish in right spirit.
All the above are fringe players as far as Bihar elections are concerned tilting the vote share here or there. The only exception is Sushil Kumar Modi, who may turn out to be the main player in days to come, in the Modi vs Nitish battle.
There are other leaders like Mukthar Abbas Naqui, Giriraaj Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Radha Mohan Singh and Upendra Kuhava etc., on the NDA side who carry considerable clout in Bihar and many other leaders there in. On the Pariwar side the spectrum revolves around Nitish and Lalu. From Samjwadi party MSY may play a role depending on which side he is then. Congress can not boast of a local leader that can tilt the scales. So the battle is between Nitish and Lalu on one side and the two Modis and other leaders mentioned supra, with few leaders of alliance partners on the other side.
If we come to Pariwar the two faces we remember are Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar who are known adversaries, so much so that Nitish became CM to bring Bihar out of the jungle raj of Lalu and claimed credit many times that he achieved a crime-free Bihar. So, it is again a billion dollar question how Biharis view the traditional bete noirs joining hands to defeat Modi, who is development-centric and a powerful leader. Let us examine the role they play in this grand opera.
9. LALU PRASAD YADAV:
A leader in his own right who defied all odds and became Chief Minister with support from all sections. But, alas! Power has gone to his head and grass did not grow under his feet. He unleashed a reign of terror, while he was giving witty lectures. People may not believe but is is true. People never used to come out on the streets of Patna after 8 PM, at one point of time. He is a powerful and witty orator. Once upon a time he was being heard with rapt attention even by highly educated people. He knows politics to the core. He is a master strategist who never says "die". He was charged in fodder scam,convicted, arrested and released on bail but he got very few sympathizers in Bihar. Does he carry the same clout he has been carrying during his hay days?
He tasted first defeat in February, 2005 but as a stable government could not be formed elections were held in October the same year where he was decimated. His decline started and continued till Mulayam called him to join the Pariwar. MSY can not be relied upon.
Lalu was not obviously satisfied with announcing Nitsh as CM candidate before polls. So, unlike in Delhi, the non announcement of CM candidate by NDA and announcement by Pariwar are on equal footing as a dissatisfied Lalu is a second CM (his family member) candidate always. He maintained studied silence after Nitish was made CM face but took pot shots at the event, saying sometimes we would have to drink poison too. That speaks volumes. He may bargain for more number of seats for his party and a Dy CM post for his party when negotiations start and there will be rebel candidates in many seats some sponsored by Lalu himself. He is cunning. His recent snubbing Sonia Iftaar is a signal that he considers Congress a fringe player in Bihar, that might spell trouble for a grand alliance. His party's reluctance to join Congress protest in Parliament is enough indication that for him his security is more important than making Nitish CM again. So will he be an asset or liability for Pariwar? Things will be clear after 2nd September after NH case goes for hearing or gets adjourned. Sentimentally, 2nd September was the day Congress lost heavily down south when the one leader who ruled a state with iron fist, YSR from AP died.
10. NITISH KUMAR :
Nitish Kumar is a soft spoken politician, who brought Bihar out of a mess created by Lalu and Company, ably assisted by S.K.Modi. His ego did him in. If he continued in NDA he would have been in a prime position today and need not have fallen back on Lalu, whom he accused as demon and on AK, a man with honesty mask. Nitish is truly honest, very sincere, hardworking and won the hearts of Biharis. But a glance at the rate of winning in 2010, BJP pipped him by winning more percentage of seats contested than JDU and in 2014 LS polls the decimation was total by NDA. So, it is fait accompli that JDU on its own does not command as much support as NDA but as a grouping it may. The big question mark for Nitish is his genetic hatred for Lalu. A man who spurned Narendra Modi may not like to share stage with Lalu. Other players like Kejriwal, Sharad and even MSY may not do so, keeping their image in mind. This will anger Lalu more, who may play spoil sport. Lalu will see SK Modi as CM, more than Nitish as a third or fourth time CM. This is my sincere assessment and it is almost a lone battle for Nitish. Does he have so much following?
His resignation, installing Manjhi only to throw him out once he became strong may have sent wrong signals to youth and first time voters, who think before voting. And this section may influence their elders to shed their old inhibitions, loyalties and shun the loosely connected thread called Pariwar. But, Nitish carries a charisma locally and can still pull off a magic. Much depends on rebel candidates mainly from RJD and his own party.
JDU, RJD are ahead in canvassing but BJP is picking up fast with the entry of Modi and Shah into the big screen. It is do or die battle for Nitish.
11. NARENDRA MODI;
Defying speculation of Media and Modi baiters, Narendra Modi announced his arrival in the Bihar battle with a bang. The meeting at Muzarpur was grand success with youth and first time voters thronging the venue with enthusiasm. Modi was at his best there and he was given hearty response by the crowd. This is good news for BJP. It was struggling to find an answer to the Delhi defeat, though the defeat indirectly helped them as the inept handling of a big Municipal Corporation with 67 MLAs has become an onerous task for AK. Instead of ruling from the front he started to attack Modi day in and day out. People expect the CM to rule and not to find alibis. This sent a strong signal to people around Delhi and the nation that with a BJP CM in saddle these daily fights could be avoided. Modi may not speak much of AK. He avoided Lalu by name, rubbing salt on his wounds making Nitish as the main rival. We need not discuss much about Modi as we know his approach. LAB may not click, as by end of this month NDA may come out with more farmer-friendly bill and take it to the farmers.
PART 3: Issues at stake in Bihar and how and where each player stands on these issues and the caste and religion factors tomorrow.