Tejashwi makes his presence felt in Bihar even as Congress pulls him down

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav addresses a press conference at the party office
The frenetic campaigning during the Bihar Assembly polls by 31-year-old Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav seemed to bear fruit as votes were counted on Tuesday for the 243-member Bihar Assembly.

The chief ministerial chair might still elude Yadav, but for that ally Congress is to blame as it underperformed.

With over 23 per cent vote share and nearly the single largest party in the Assembly, Yadav accomplished crystallisation of social justice 2.0.

The vote share was evidence that he managed to overcome the caste obstacles to shape a new Muslim, Yadav, Youth support base for his party, with ‘youth’ cutting across caste lines investing its hopes in the young leader along with that of the party’s traditional support base of ‘Muslim-Yadav’.

Yadav’s success was also to give voice to the aspirational Bihar, which is looking beyond ‘BSP’ – sushasan babu’ Nitish Kumar-led governments tried to provide in the last 15 years.

Yadav spoke of the promise of mahangayi (price rise). The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership had focused on campaigning on religious issues like construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya and divisive issues, like the Citizenship Amendment Act.

It was, however, forced to respond to Yadav’s campaign on issues of livelihood. To Yadav’s promise of 1 million jobs, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) promised 1.9 million jobs and free Covid-19 vaccine.

Among RJD’s allies in the mahagathbandhan, or the grand alliance, the three Left parties, allies of the RJD, punched much above their weight, leading in at least 18 of the 29 they contested. The weakest link in the chain proved to be the Congress.

It could manage an abysmal 20 seats (wins plus leads at the time of filing of this report) in the 70 seats its contested. Strategists in the alliance rued handing out as many as 70 seats to the Congress, which had contested 43 in 2015 as part of the grand alliance then.

However, Congress sources insisted that they sacrificed some of their ‘safe seats’ to other parties in the alliance. They also claimed that they fought the BJP in its pocket boroughs in urban areas. The alliance benefited, with the Congress getting so many seats by weaning away upper caste voters from the BJP, it was argued.

With no clear winner and the BJP-led NDA in striking distance to form the government, the RJD-led grand alliance does not need to burn midnight oil just yet on how to deliver upon its promise of delivering 1 million jobs, including 450,000 government jobs.

As it has done for some in other states it directly rules, or in alliance with other parties, the Congress was ready to put in place a group of experts to guide the government on policymaking and fulfilling its manifesto promises.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, which contested 19 and was leading on 12 – the best strike rate among all parties – has already announced it will not join any ‘Mahagathbandhan’ government. It will support it from outside. The party has significant influence among the Mahadalits, and its presence helped the alliance be seen in public perception as a ‘coalition of the poor’.

These are also the sections that suffered the most because of the nationwide lockdown, and trudged their way to their homes in Bihar in the absence of any succour offered by either the Centre or state governments.

The election results showed that smaller parties, particularly Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM and Bahujan Samaj Party, hurt the grand alliance in regions where it was expected to do well, contributing to it falling short of a simple majority at the time of filing of this report.


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