If Bihar assembly election was anything, it is a solid confirmation that caste will continue dominate the state politics for some more time. It is also a confirmation that the Index of Opposition Unity (IoU) will determine the success or failure of Narendra Modi-led BJP in the days to come.
Face and Base of Victory
The caste equations have shown that Lalu had regained most of his MY (Muslim+Yadav) vote bank. A significant chunk of Yadavs voted for Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Muslim votes were divided between Lalu and Nitish. The Maha Gath Bandhan has ensured that the division of Muslim votes was arrested and the Yadav, OBC combo worked for them.
While pundits may say that tolerance issue, cow issue, negative statements worked against BJP or that this is a vote aganist "Communal" politics of BJP, the hard political reality is that these will not even have marginal impact on Bihar's vast rural masses. It is the caste equations, constituency-level working out of poll arithmatics and calculated campaign that worked wonders for the Gath Bandhan. They cleverly ensured that there was no division of anti-BJP votes. It was clear from the beginning that the 2014 staggering performance of the BJP was mainly due to a divided Opposition. Laloo did everything possible to cobble up a coalition with Nitish so that Nitish's face and Laloo's base works well.
Jinx continues for BJP
As for the BJP, its jinx in the South and East continues. Though Kerala municipal polls gave them some cheer, the happiness vanished when their gateway to the Eastern conquest - Bihar- spurned them. If one maps BJP's success, the whole of North and West is saffron. From South to the sliver of area that stretches up to Assam on the East is barren area for the BJP. Also, wherever there is a strong third party, the BJP had not done well. The BJP's strength basically lies in Bipolar contests without regional strongmen. Wherever there are strong regional satraps, as in Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish, Laloo, Naveen Patnaik, KCR, Jayalalitha, the BJP fared poorly. The BJP will have to not just lick its wounds, but also seriously introspect as to where it lost the plot.
One strong sub-text of this Modi-Nitish contest is Baahari vs Bihari. Nitish could convince the rural masses that Modi is Baahari (outsider) while he is (Bihari). He had his finger on the pulse of rural Biharis who were harassed, thrashed, insulted across the country. He thus capitalised on the Bihari self-respect in a big way.
What future holds?
This election is sure to have a national impact. Bihar has always been a harbinger of change - be it 1857 war of independence, non-cooperation of Gandhiji or even JP's total revolution. Will this bring an opposition unity with Nitish as its spearhead? Will Nitish replace the Congress as the leader of anti-Modi coalition at the national level? Will he be more inspirational a leader as against a sapless Rahul? Will people like Mulayam, Mayavati, sharat Pawar and the Congress accept him? What will be the contours of the anti-Modi coalition? Will this hit the reform plans of Narendra Mody by delaying his mission to achieve a majority in Rajya Sabha by 2017 end and have a President of his choice? But, before all that will a resurgent and Machiavellian Laloo allow Nitish the much-needed leeway? Will he tie him down to Bihar and thwart his national ambitions? These questions will get answers as the days unfold slowly.
But, what about Modi and Amit Shah. It is unlikely that Shah will be axed as that would also mean Modi has to share the blame for Bihar failure. What one can foresee is rise in internal voices against Modi. The party has to introspect where it went wrong and why its campaign floundered.
Finally, congratulations to FACE of victory Nitish and the BASE of victory Lalu. It is their day. They have their challenges ahead, but given the sway they hold on Bihar, they sure know how to take the Biharis along.