"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Well, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a trail-blazer, like no other leader in contemporary times. On Tuesday,10th November 2020, the commoner from Bihar and the power of the ballot, outnumbered and outsmarted the opposition, thereby shattering the dreams of the "Double Yuvraj" duo of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. The single biggest catalyst who ensured an absolute majority for the BJP led NDA in the Bihar elections was undoubtedly Prime Minister Modi, who batted on the front foot, took the battle right into the opposition camp, put his invincible stamp in the Hindi heartland and catapulted the scorecard of the BJP, in a chain of events that inspiring folklores are made of.
While the BJP bagged 74 seats, the JD(U) tally was restricted to 43. The Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD got 75 seats but this was a fall from the 80 that it secured in the 2015 assembly elections. Also, with RJD contesting in 144 seats, Tejashwi's strike declined from 79.2% in 2015 to a modest 52% in 2020, while BJP's strike rate was a far superior and solid, 67.3%, up from 33.75%, in 2015. BJP bagged 74 seats, despite contesting in just 110 seats. The analysis of vote-share showed that RJD improved its share from 18.35% in 2015 to 23.11% this time, while the BJP saw a decline from 24.42% to 19.46%. However, the BJP was able to translate a lower vote share into higher votes, due to a far better strike rate.
While RJD's vote share rose, its seat share fell by 6.25%, proving that the hype around Tejashwi Yadav, by biased sections of the media, was clearly overdone. The Congress, as is typical of it, was reduced to a mere 19 seats, with Rahul Gandhi living up to his reputation of being the driving force behind the erstwhile grand old party's embarrassing journey into oblivion.
Political pundits, part-time psephologists who never visited Bihar in the last 30 years and the Leftist cabal, completely dismissed any chances of the NDA, pointing at the anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar. What they never reckoned was the fact that a fifteen-year anti-incumbency, was overpowered by the magical "Pull Factor", of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a global statesman, whose towering stature, has made him the most popular and powerful leader in post-independent India.
This year, the woman turnout in Bihar was 59.9%, as opposed to 54.7%, for the men who voted. The NDA performed best in the second and third phases where the strong but "silent majority" of women voters was higher at 58.8% and 65.5%, respectively, compared to just 54.4%, in the first phase. "Bihar's villages, poor, youth, elderly, workers, shopkeepers have all kept faith with the NDA's 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas' mantra," PM Modi, said in a tweet, post the emphatic victory, capturing the essence of these high octane elections. He thanked the youth and the women voters, in particular.
Modi's groundbreaking schemes such as "Ujjawala Yojana" and "Swacch Bharat", proved to be a decisive factor and led to the high turn out of women at the polling booths. Free provision of ration that would continue till the Chhath festival and cash transfers into the "Jan Dhan" scheme, were big swing factors, too. The Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) helped women entrepreneurs set up 30,437 projects during 2016-17 and 2017-18, with the financial assistance of over Rs 853.05 crore, with Bihar being a big beneficiary. Under 'Mahila Coir Yojana' scheme, which is exclusively for rural women artisans, training in the spinning of coir yarn and various coir processing activities is imparted to rural women in regions producing coir fibre in the country. This scheme reached the hinterland in Bihar. The "Standup India" scheme, under which bank loans of between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1 crore are facilitated, has over 81% women account holders, with States like Bihar being big beneficiaries.
In many ways, Seemanchal is different from the rest of Bihar. The most obvious one is demographic make-up. This area has a 47% Muslim population as against Bihar’s State-wide average of 17%. It was among the most backward regions, under the "Jungle Raj", of the corrupt RJD regime, prior to 2005 and was royally ignored by the political class of Patna. Purnea University, the only university here, came into existence just two years ago in 2018, thanks to the NDA. The average literacy rate of the four districts in the Seemanchal region is 54%, against Bihar’s average of 64%. But this 54% is laudable, because fifteen years back, the literacy rate here, was next to nil. Out of the 27 seats that the Congress won in 2015,8 were from this Seemanchal region. This time, be it RJD or Congress, their politics of appeasement has failed to deliver. While AIMIM, playing the minority-ism card, did win 5 seats out of the 20 that it contested in Bihar, of which 14 were in Muslim dominated areas, the interesting thing is, AIMIM's strike rate has been dismal. Five out of 20 is a pedestrian strike rate of just 25%. Minority voters who were earlier loyal to the Lalu or Congress brand of politics have been increasingly shifting loyalties to the BJP's governance oriented ethos, lured by Prime Minister Modi's inclusive development agenda, that cuts across caste, religious and geographical divides.
The ‘Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan’ was launched by PM Modi in June 2020, via video conference, in Katihar village in Bihar in the presence of Chief Ministers of five States, namely, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and a minister from Odisha. The scheme has been working in a mission mode in 116 districts across these six States where the maximum number of the migrant workers returned home, during the peak of the Covid pandemic. Over 20 lakh migrants of Bihari origin, returned back to Bihar and were taken care of by the NDA, although Leftist media ran a false campaign, suggesting migrants had been left to fend for themselves. The Bihar elections prove how fake news and falsehoods can never trump the wisdom of the electorate.
A point less talked about is the fact that the NDA decided to extend 35% reservation to women in all categories of government jobs for which direct recruitment is made, after initially implementing it only in police jobs. Amongst other things, over 42 crore beneficiaries were directly given cash support through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) amounting to over Rs 53,248 crore under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package (PMGKP), during just two months of May and June 2020, at the height of the pandemic, with Bihar being one of the key beneficiaries.
The Modi government also transferred Rs 8,488 crore into the bank accounts of PM Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries. Also, 8.58 crore free Ujjwala cylinders were delivered nationally, with Bihar being a key beneficiary. The Modi government also released the first instalment of PM-KISAN (Rs 16,394 crore) and transferred it to over 8.19 crore identified farmers who got Rs 2,000 directly in their accounts, India-wide. Again, over Rs 20,344 crore was disbursed to women Jan Dhan account holders, nationally. The Bihar election results, putting the BJP in pole position, is hence, a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's excellent handling of Covid, among other things, with India's recovery rate in excess of 93% and mortality rate at less than 1.5%. Bihar's mortality rate is just 0.001%.
Also, BJP's highly erudite, National President, J.P. Nadda's instrumental role in the Bihar elections, is something that has been exemplary and needs to be documented. He covered every nook and cranny of Bihar with his fiery speeches, literally burning the midnight oil. Even in the midst of the Covid pandemic, J.P.Nadda was toiling hard. He instructed every State unit to establish "Roti Banks" at the booth level and in every "Shakti Kendra" (a cluster of three to six booths), to feed migrants and daily wage workers, during the nationwide coronavirus induced, lockdown. Under the indefatigable Nadda, the BJP served five crore meals every day through authenticated community kitchens, at the peak of the pandemic and linked up such kitchens in every block, which could serve at least 1,000 people per day.
India's next round of election battle-ground will shift to communists-ruled Kerala, Southern state of Tamil Nadu and two other Eastern states of Assam and West Bengal. These states go to the polls by April-May 2021. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat will go to the polls in March and November 2022. Apart from the historic win in Bihar, driven by the Narendra Modi magic, the BJP also swept the bypolls, making clean wins in Gujarat, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Winning all the 8 seats in Gujarat, winning more than double of the 8 seats required to retain power in Madhya Pradesh, winning the Rajarajeshwari and Sira seats in Karnataka and of course, scoring an unprecedented victory in the Dubakka assembly in Telangana, are a glowing testimony to the charisma, connect, prowess, sway and a sheer magic that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on the electorate, across the length and breadth of India. "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams", said Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States. Well, in the case of India, the future belongs to the 1.38 billion people of this sub-continent, because of their unmitigated faith and trust, in Prime Minister Modi, who has lifted over 75 million people from poverty, in the last few years. Bihar has sent out a strong message, very loud and clear--the ground has been laid for a powerful Modi 3.0, decisively and in more ways than one, because the Narendra Modi factor is unstoppable and is only getting bigger.
(The author of this opinion story, Sanju Verma is an Economist, National Spokesperson of BJP and Bestselling Author of "Truth & Dare - The Modi Dynamic". Republic World has not contributed to the piece.)