Tejashwi Yadav has transformed the discourse in Bihar poll campaign
One thing is absolutely explicit: win or lose, this election has made Tejashwi the man to watch out for not only in Bihar but beyond the state
Some seasoned intelligence personnel and senior media men close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been burning the midnight lamp to decode the mystery of the pro-Mahagathbandhan tornado that started sweeping across Bihar just seven days ahead of the election.
Ever since the dates of the elections were announced, the BJP think tank and senior functionaries were confident of a NDA clean sweep given the differences amongst the Mahagathbandhan allies. They did not expect that the election would acquire the character of a referendum on the performance of Modi and his usual nationalist rhetoric pushing behind the public face of the NDA, Nitish Kumar in the background.
Even the grand alliance leaders, especially the RJD, did not visualise this nature of tsunami. It is a fact that the political leadership of Bihar failed to feel the mood of the people, particularly of the youth, of the state. RLSP leader Upendra Kushwaha and HAM chief Jitan Ram Majhi left the grand alliance only after they thought that it would prove to be a non starter and does not have any electoral prospect.
It was the charisma that weighed with the political system of the state. The lack of political perspective and insight was clearly on display in their failure to gauge the mood and anger of the rural people, the poor, precisely the proletariat.
Amidst this depressing scenario, the Left, especially the CPI(ML) was nevertheless confident of resurgence of the might and voice of the poor and the oppressed. That was precisely why they were consistently persuading the RJD leader to formalise the alliance and give it a shape. It is a coincidence that the sharing of seats was formalised just barely a week before the election dates were announced. The delay in reaching an understanding had in fact unnerved the supporters and sympathisers of the Left parties. Some of them had even started nursing the view that they would have to go to polls on their own. In contrast CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya counselled Tejashwi to see the ground realities and act accordingly.
His efforts paid off. This was for the first time the alliance leaders, instead of sticking to the caste equations, came face to face with the people on economic issues, especially the job to the youth and deprivation of the state. The exercise turned out to be a referendum on the performance of Modi. It turned out to be a tough task for Modi to decry the move and he tactfully tried to play safe by putting the onus on Nitish Kumar.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the economic issues and development for the first time in the electoral history of Bihar acquired centre space with the caste equation preferring to withdraw to the periphery. It would be wrong to say that the caste equations and consideration got completely obliterated from the electoral scene, but it is a bare fact that it did not play a significant role in shaping the electoral strategy.
The caste factor that was visible was joining of hands by the OBC, EBC and Dalits against the NDA and particularly against Nitish. This section of society had to bear the brunt of the pandemic and lockdown. The youths of this section did not look at their miseries from the caste point of view but took the pain at their minds and hearts, as a bunch of unwanted people; the people who do not have any importance in the eyes of the NDA, the BJP and JD(U), rulers.
They were also patiently waiting for their opportunity after the elections were announced. It is worth mentioning that even before the elections were formally announced, they had vowed to teach lessons to Nitish and Modi. With the alliance acquiring a formal shape, their emotions burst out and acquired the character of a tornado. It gained momentum with the Bihari face of rebel Kanhaiya Kumar joining the campaign. He has already been touring the state and politically arousing the youths and students to rise and protest the misrule and mismanagement of Modi and Nitish.
Initially, the RJD leaders and its candidates were not interested in inviting Kanhaiya to their constituencies for campaigning, but now the scenario has undergone a complete change. The RJD candidates want him to address public meetings in their constituencies. According to sources, he has been invited by 35 candidates.
It is really interesting to watch young leaders Tejashwi Yadav and Kanhaiya Kumar challenging and countering the charisma and hallow of Modi. While the young leaders represent the aspirations of the youths and students of Bihar, Modi is fighting desperately to preserve his nationalist and religious image. He has miserably failed to connect with the youths and students of Bihar. His rhetoric of religious sensibilities and nationalism has failed to attract the youths and students.
One thing is absolutely explicit: win or lose, this election has made Tejashwi the man to watch out for not only in Bihar but beyond the state. He has been trying to define the character of the politics. This is the reason that Modi’s diatribe and jibe of Jungle Raj and Yuvraj have failed to have any impact. This also makes it clear that his speech writers sitting in Delhi are unable to comprehend the nature of transformation Bihar is witnessing.
Tejashwi symbolises the surging new Bihar. Obviously, he is not at fault to identify himself with the 15-year-rule of Lalu Yadav. During the last thirty years, Bihar has faced many ordeals. The worst phase has been the reign of Nitish Kumar, for the reason that he had come to power with the pledge to change the system of governance and completely transform the state. Lalu might have been involved in the fodder scam, but Nitish institutionalised corruption and scams.
Manoj Jha, MP and RJD strategist, was right in saying; “Tejashwi has made a crossover from merely social justice (the war cry of Lalu-era Mandalism) to economic justice as well”. The political scenario has changed. The state is witnessing the new kind of aspirational politics and also the challenge to reverse the process of labour migration. Jha correctly said; “We are defining a new, larger politics aimed at all sections of Bihar and addressing the fundamental issues of unemployment and deep economic stress that all Biharis have suffered.”
Though young, Tejashwi has in fact been behaving more like a seasoned politician. He is keeping strictly to local issues, spurning the temptation of getting looped into the BJP’s nationalist or Hindutva discourse. He is not allowing himself to be trapped into the jibes of Modi and Nitish. The task before Tejashwi is arduous; he has to ensure that the dreams of the poor do not get shattered, imaginations get their wings and the Bihari sub-nationality gets respect and recognised. The people who used to refer to this word, are unfortunately not to be seen in the present melee.