What helped Nitish Kumar and NDA overcome anti-incumbency
The return of NDA to power in Bihar, despite a strong wave of anti-incumbency against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and prediction of an ouster in exit polls, may have come as a surprise, but has its roots in a neatly laid-out political plan ahead of the polls.
In a move to paint itself as a pro-Dalit alliance in the face of the Chirag Paswan-helmed LJP quitting the alliance, the NDA was quick to accommodate the Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Mukesh’s Sverahani’s Vikashsheel Insaan Party (VIP), both from the Dalit community as Chirag.
While the JD(U) gave seats to Manjhi’s party from its share, the BJP accommodated the VIP from its quota.
Warming up to the minorities also worked in Nitish’s favour. The chief minister gave a ticket to Faraz Fatmi, who recently jumped camp to JD(U) from RJD. Even though Faraz lost the polls, the ticket was seen as a strong outreach by Nitish Kumar to the Muslim community.
Despite the migrant crisis, which saw thousands of the migrant labourers walking their way home, threatening to disempower the Nitish government, both the BJP and JD(U) tried to damage control by launching cash transfer and foodgrain schemes for affected families. The Nitish Kumar government extended relief measures for every migrant family including cash transfer up to ₹6,000 per family, while the central government gave beneficiaries 5 kg food grain per person and specially extended the plan till November-end.
The ‘Jungle Raj’ narrative – used to refer to the RJD’s rule between 1990 and 2005 – extensively used by the NDA in poll campaigns may also have turned voters against Tejashwi and his promises of 10 lakh government jobs to youth of Bihar.
Although Tejashwi took care not to use the photograph of his parents Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi, former RJD chief ministers and criticized the NDA for harping on the past, his party nonetheless fielded candidates with criminal history.