So many thousands of words have poured from the keyboards of so many experts and analysts on the recent Bihar elections and BJPs defeat. Here’s our analysis, presented in corporate style bullet points.
- As in Delhi, voters have not rejected PM Narendra Modi. Knowing he can’t be their CM, they have chosen a popular local alternative.
- Regardless of rights and wrongs, the intolerance debate made very little difference to voter behavior – the two major groups Muslims and Yadavs that consolidated behind MGB and killed NDA prospects made up their minds for entirely different reasons. Nothing could have changed that.
- While voters still like Modi, they could not bring themselves to reject Nitish simply because the central government’s performance has not been overwhelmingly good. It had to be that not just because of the scale of expectations raised in 2014, but also because of the lack of suitable local alternative. This means the engine has to be revved up in Delhi.
- While voters may not have ‘punished’ BJP for raking up controversial issues, they have also not voted for BJP for those reasons. That’s the lesson.
- If BJP wants to consolidate Hindu voters across caste identities, the only unifying factor can be performance. Visible, identifiable and something that touches each citizen. Promise of performance could work in 2014, but in 2015 (and in 2019), it is results that will count.
- Margin of victory (in vote % terms) in May 2014 doesn’t leave BJP much room for margin of error. The clean sweep of northern states hides many weaknesses that Bihar exposes. Committed BJP voters can’t deliver the crown. The ‘floating’ or uncommitted ones need to be pursued.
- It pays to be humble. The message may remain same, but language of delivery needs calibration. This may or may not help to get Parliament going but will at least make it difficult for opponents to justify their own arrogance.
- BJP need not court minorities aggressively but senseless antagonism that delivers no tangible benefits to the majority (and doesn’t even rally them) has to stop. This is where Modi has to guide BJP to a Hindutva agenda that focuses on doing good (that few will oppose) instead of ‘teaching lesson’ (which many will).
- Develop local leadership. Time to plan Tier 2 for center and Tier 1 and Tier 2 leaders for various states with UP being high priority. It also supplies steady talent to the center, likes of Manohar Parikkar that BJP desperately needs.
- Assume Parliament is a write off, focus on thousands of things, small and big that can be done with executive actions. We have seen precious little.
- Reduce foreign travel. Sad but true, it is easy to electorally exploit that in a country like India. In any case, the big push has been done, now it is for the rest of MoE and team to take it forward.
Modi is a natural leader. We need more leadership from him. It could be as simple as that to make sure 2019 is a repeat of 2014.