The results in Bihar are yet another testimony to the persuasive presence of Prime Minister Nare,ndra Modi in electoral politics. According to political pundits it was all but over for the Bharaitya Janata Party, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, led by 31-year-old Tejashwi Yadav was meant to storm to power in the state.
That, as we saw, was not to be, although the party under Tejashwi has put up an impressive performance, having been ultimately led down by their alliance partner, the Congress.
‘Left liberal’ commentators in Delhi had made a similar play with another dynast, Akhilesh Yadav, in 2017 during the Uttar Pradesh elections – the ‘UP ke ladke’ slogan was coined for the Rahul-Akhilesh jugalbandi and we saw what happened there.
By that measure Tejashwi Yadav has acquitted himself far more decisively.
But this electoral win for the BJP would have been impossible without PM Modi and there is absolutely no doubt about that.
In the summer, when we saw thousands of migrants walk home in desperation, a large number came from Bihar. The heart-rending scenes of the exodus and the suffering impacted us all. The world was faced with an unprecedented challenge in the form of the coronavirus pandemic: India with its large population was pegged to be the country which would suffer the most in terms of fatalities and controlling the spread.
In these difficult and uncertain times, PM Modi took to addressing the nation and he was unambiguous in his expression of concern for the welfare of the country. In particular, he apologised to the poor who have been the most impacted by this disease. Employment opportunities for daily wagers had immediately dried up and then the rush to get home began.
The mainstream media and the Opposition looked at this as an opportunity to create a narrative that Modi had let down the poor and would never be forgiven. There were TV shows, op-eds and debates that ran for months pushing this point in the summer of 2020.
Indeed, it was an emotive subject to see human suffering at a time we all felt vulnerable and helpless. Even developed countries like America were setting up makeshift morgues and bodies were piling up in the corridors of hospitals in New York City.
Now six months later we can say that India, despite our large population and terrifying challenges and struggles, never saw scenes to the level that emerged from the Western world. For that PM Modi must be credited. Although it's far from over, we have done far better than anyone gave us a chance -- including ourselves.
But returning to the Bihar election, PM Modi’s apology to the poor has triumphed with this result. A clear conscience and straight-speak with the people has resulted in an outpouring of support in an election that the National Democratic Alliance had a very strong chance of losing.
The three-term incumbency was proving to be a real damper on the prospects of the alliance. The message of jungle raj was old and well used, the youth of Bihar who were voting had not experienced or had little memory of Lalu’s reign of lawlessness.
A fresh and scrubbed up Tejashwi Yadav, with his father in jail, promised employment to the youth at a time when jobs had dried up: a progressive message. In these circumstances, the media spin and political punditry handed over the election to young Yadav.
And the limping horse, which was the NDA alliance, was meant to limp out of the race and take Nitish’s career with it.
However, as the results showed, this was not to be. The BJP identified with PM Modi led with its strike rate of 66 percent in the seats it contested, surpassing its tired alliance partner, the Janata Dal (United), and ensuring that Nitish Kumar got his fourth term as Bihar chief minister.
The wheels of time are indeed interesting, it was Nitish Kumar who all those years ago excused himself from the NDA, when Narendra Modi was chosen as the prime ministerial candidate. It is in some essence divine providence that it is the same Narendra Modi that has got Nitish Kumar a final term in office.
Mr Kumar has already stated that this will be his last election, he has read the writing on the wall: politicians, the ones who are good at it, know how to read the writing on the wall, not paint over it.
There is no doubt the chief minister was unpopular but after three terms it is to be expected: the Indian electorate can be fickle and can tire easily of its electoral heroes because this is a country where change moves at a slow pace.
However, PM Modi with his unique combination of charisma, decisiveness and overarching presence in the national consciousness is a vote-getting machine that Indian democracy has never seen nor, in all likelihood, will it ever see again.
This COVID-19 pandemic displayed how his vision has improved the lives of lakhs, initiatives like a toilet in each home has helped counter the spread of the virus, which is known to spread rapidly through human waste.
His push for a digital India and Jan Dhan accounts have helped the poor navigate this difficult time in a way that would not have been possible even five years ago.
It is unsurprising that people believe that ‘Modi hai toh mumkin hai’ isn’t just a catchy phrase but the promise of a reality. The Bihar election is a testament to this bond of trust with Narendra Modi and it won't be the last example of that trust.
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