The Bihar elections are almost certainly going to be Modi’s Waterloo, after which his fortunes are going to rapidly decline. Let me explain.
In most of India, including Bihar, most people vote on caste and religious lines. The exception is when there is a wave, which cuts through these lines.
The BJP had won the May, 2014 Lok Sabha elections on a Modi wave. This wave was due to three main reasons.
One, Modi’s magic slogan of ‘vikas’ (development), which was perceived as the creation of millions of jobs. The Indian youth, whose voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1988, and who are facing the dreadful future of unemployment (10 million youth enter the job market in India every year, but only half a million jobs are created in the organised sector of the economy), voted en masse for Modi, cutting through caste and religious lines, in the belief that they would all get jobs.
Two, unfortunately the communal virus is still deeply entrenched in society. Most Hindus are communal, and so are most Muslims. Modi was perceived as a ‘Muslim basher’, who had put Muslims in their place in Gujarat in 2002. Many Hindus believe that there has been too much ‘Muslim appeasement’, and so voted for Modi to put Muslims in their place on an all-India basis.
Three, people were simply disgusted with Congress and the UPA under whose rule various scams were unearthed.
Now the Modi wave has largely dissipated, except among hardcore, mainly upper-caste Hindu fundamentalists.
There are no jobs despite the victory of the BJP. Jobs cannot be created by slogans. They are created when the economy is rapidly expanding. And the Indian economy is practically stagnant. So the youth who were expecting jobs have realised they were taken for a ride.
Those who talk of GDP growth ( assuming the figures are real and not cooked up, as they often are ) overlook the more important question : who is getting the fruits of this growth, the Indian masses or only a handful of big businessmen ?
The hope that foreign investments would come into India and create jobs has proved to be illusory. In fact Jim Rogers, a leading American investor has withdrawn his investments in India and exited, saying that one cannot invest in mere hope. Who will invest or set up factories in India in most parts of which there is lack of infrastructure, massive corruption and red tape? (despite Modi’s tall claims of ‘na khaoonga na kanedoonga’). As one foreign businessman said " There is a lot of sizzle, but where is the steak ? ". When even Indian businessmen are not investing in India, why should foreigners do so ?
On the other hand, prices of essential food items like daal and onions have gone through the roof. For instance, dal is selling at about Rs.200 a kilo. This means that the real incomes of most people in India have gone down drastically, because incomes are relative to the price index. Is this vikas ?
No doubt the communal card is still sought to be played – Dadri and the beef ban politics – but it is not having much effect. Food and jobs are more important to people than religion or talk of Digital India and visits to foreign countries.
So voting in the Bihar elections is following the traditional pattern of caste and religion, and we can therefore forecast the results with almost mathematical precision.
As per the 2011 Census of India, Scheduled Castes constitute 16 percent of Bihar’s 104 million population. The census identified 21 of 23 Dalit sub-castes as Mahadalits. The Mahadalit community consists of the following sub-castes: Bantar, Bauri, Bhogta, Bhuiya, Chaupal, Dabgar, Dom (Dhangad), Ghasi, Halalkhor, Hari (Mehtar, Bhangi), Kanjar, Kurariar, Lalbegi, Musahar, Nat, Pan (Swasi), Rajwar, Turi, Dhobi, Pasi, Chamar and Paswan (Dusadh).
The Paswan caste was initially left out of the Mahadalit category. Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) constitute around 1.3 percent of Bihar’s population. Tribals include Gond, Santhal and Tharu communities in Bihar.
Extremely Backward Class (EBCs) is also sometimes referred to as Most Backward Class (MBCs). There are 130-odd EBC castes in Bihar.
Yadavs and Kurmis, constituting 19 percent, and Muslims – about 17 percent – will solidly vote for the Lalu-Nitish alliance, which makes it 36 percent of the vote. Muslims will vote for the alliance despite Owaisi, who is regarded as a BJP vote splitter by Muslims, and who will therefore not be misled by him, because Muslims are feeling very insecure after issues such as ‘love jihad’, ‘ghar wapasi’, speeches of Adityanath, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and incidents like those in Muzaffarnagar, Ballabhgarh, and the latest one at Dadri.
A section of the other backward castes, say 8-10 percent, will also vote for the alliance, as Lalu has successfully described it as a fight between the backwards and the forward castes.
Thus the tally of the Nitish-Lalu alliance comes to about 45 percent votes, which represents a sweep (the BJP got a majority in the Lok Sabha with only 31 percent votes).
The NDA’s support is from the upper castes, and a section of the EBCs (or MBCs) and a section of Dalits.
The upper castes in Bihar are altogether only 15 percent. Paswan does not have the support of all the Dalits (who are divided into a large number of sub-castes and Paswan is only one of the dalit sub-castes), in Bihar, unlike Mayawati who has the support of almost all the Dalits in UP. So he may get the NDA about 6-7 percent votes. Manjhi may get 7-8 percent MBC votes, and Kushwaha may get three percent of the votes.
Thus the total tally of NDA votes is at most 33 percent.
These figures show that there is clearly going to be a sweep in favour of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. In the Indian system of democracy, seats in elections depend not on percentage share of votes but on being first past the post. With 31 percent votes the BJP got an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. Getting 45 percent votes means a massive victory for the Nitish-Lalu alliance
And after that, the deluge for the BJP. Massive agitations against price rise, unemployment, etc will begin almost immediately after the Bihar elections, and these will not be quelled by phoney slogans of vikas, and stunts like,Swatchata Abhiyan, Yoga Day, etc You can fool the people for some time, but not for all time.