Nitish ‘tsunami’ sweeps Bihar, wipes out Lalu, Congress (Intro Roundup)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PATNA/NEW DELHI - Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Wednesday steered the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a historic electoral triumph bagging nearly 85 percent of the seats and decimating the Lalu Prasad-led opposition while virtually erasing the Congress from one of India’s most populous states.

In a verdict that left even experts groping for words, Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance rode to victory on its development plank and was projected to win an incredible 206 of the 243 assembly seats.

While the JD-U was projected to win 115, the BJP tally was 91.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) combine led by Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, considered kingmakers until just a few years ago, was trailing far behind at number two with 25 seats.

And the Congress, which rules the country and contested all 243 seats, was left lagging at a humiliating third with a dismal four seats, less than even the nine it mustered in the 2005 poll.

Emphatic, resounding, decisive many adjectives did the rounds as analysts and politicians attempted to grasp the extent of the poll victory that has propelled JD-U chief Nitish Kumar to a second term of governing the state of 83 million.

The trends were seen right from 8 a.m. when counting began of the 28 millions votes polled from Oct 21 to Nov 20. It was largely seen as a victory of development versus the regressive politics of caste that had for long dominated the state, considered one of the poorest and most backward.

Stating that development had won in Bihar, Nitish Kumar, whose past is rooted in the country’s now virtually defunct socialist movement, said people wanted to put the state on the path of progress and pointed out that this election had seen more women voters than men.

“Bat banane ka daur khatam ho gaya hai (The time to talk has ended),” he said, adding that those who fought the election on the basis of caste had been defeated.

“Logon mein jagriti ayee hai, woh apni kahani likhega. Yeh chunao ne nayee kahani likhi hai. (People have awakened, this will write its own story. This election has written a new story),” the toast of Bihar said.

Although both the JD-U and BJP, who have been aligned since 1996, made substantial gains over their 2005 strength, leaders of both credited the win largely to the charisma of Nitish Kumar.

As wild celebrations broke out in the JD-U and BJP headquarters in Delhi and Patna, BJP leaders stepped out one by one to hail the victory - Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar.

“I congratulate the people of Bihar for showing extreme maturity,” Jaitley said.

“It marks a new signal in Indian polity. It is a victory of meritorious leadership over dynastic politics,” he said, taking a swipe at the Congress, which fielded its president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi for campaigning in the six-phase elections.

“We didn’t have much hope,” Sonia Gandhi admitted while talking to reporters outside her residence. “The results indicate that our party has to start from scratch and that is what we plan to do.”

Her colleague Home Minister P. Chidambaram added while congratulating Nitish Kumar for the “great show” that the “development argument has prevailed”.

“We wish them the best for running a progressive and forward looking government,” Chidambaram said.

Smarting under the humiliating defeat that saw his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi routed as well as his brothers-in-law, RJD chief Lalu Prasad congratulated long-time rival but not the BJP as he “hates” it for its communal views.

As the political world wrote his political epitaph, he said: “We are not discouraged, we will do our duty as the opposition.”

In political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao’s views, this election result showed that “leadership and development were becoming crucial factors” while caste and other such factors were becoming less prominent.

“There are many elections which resulted in this kind of outcome,” Rao told IANS, adding that it was very unusual for the Hindi heartland though not so in places like Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

While analysts debated, there was also a groundswell of support for events back home from the many migrant workers and youngsters who left home for better opportunities. Maybe this was the gamechanger that would ensure that their state was no longer ‘BIMARU’, they hoped.

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