RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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The Bihar assembly election result has deflated the balloon around Tejashwi Yadav. Even if you agree with his Rashtriya Janata Dal’s claims that some seats were lost to counting malpractices or downright rigging, even if you take into account the seats lost by slim margins to ‘vote-cutters’, it is clear that the election lacked a pro-Tejashwi sentiment even as it had an anti-Nitish sentiment.

Put simply, Tejashwi Yadav failed to successfully exploit the massive anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar.  

A senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader had told me during the campaign that he expected the Congress to win 20 seats. The Left, they calculated, would win another 10-12 seats. The RJD, they expected, would win 90 seats. That’s how they would touch the majority mark of 122, they hoped. 

The result shows us that the Congress almost matched this expectation, the Left parties exceeded it, but the under-performer was the RJD. 

Why, then, was the Congress given 70 seats to contest? Actually, the Congress was seriously fighting in only 45 seats. The remaining 25 seats were considered un-winnable by any alliance partner. Many of these were BJP strongholds. The Congress thinks it should contest as many seats as possible to be able to expand the party in the long run. The Congress logic is always to win the next election and not the current one. So, the party bullied the RJD into giving it all these 25 seats, a senior RJD leader told me, and then did a terrible job of candidate selection.  

But the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan knew all of this and had factored in the state of the Congress. It is the RJD that won 15 less seats than it expected. The responsibility for the Mahagathbandhan’s loss has to be taken ultimately by the senior partner that led the alliance, namely the RJD, and its face Tejashwi Yadav.

The RJD had won 80 of the 100 seats it had contested in the 2015 assembly election, when it was in alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United). This time, it won 75 of 144. The RJD has actually reduced its tally of seats and worsened its strike rate. These numbers don’t lie: there was no Tejashwi wave.

The JD(U) lost a lot of seats with slim margins because the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) cut into its votes. It is safe to assume that without the LJP queering the pitch, the JD(U) would have performed a lot better — again, indicating the absence of a pro-Tejashwi wave.

Yes, the caste arithmetic was loaded in favour of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Heavily. Yes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cadres scared people about the possibility of Jungle Raj 2.0 if the RJD came to power. All of this was already known. Tejashwi could still have won this election.


Also read: NDA won in Bihar by reminding people of ‘Jungle Raj’. But data shows it’s a myth


Slow and steady wins the race

There’s something common about the three parties that have done stupendously well in the 2020 Bihar assembly election — the BJP, the CPI(ML) and the AIMIM. These are all parties that believe in working hard on the ground all five years, election or no election.

Asaduddin Owaisi, the MP from Hyderabad and the chief of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), has cultivated the Muslim vote in Seemanchal for years. When the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement was going on, his party was active among the people. The RJD leadership was muted. When Priyanka Gandhi was hailing the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Owaisi’s party was telling Muslims in Seemanchal about it.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation, or CPI(ML), has worked with the poor in parts of Bihar for decades now. Win or lose, they’re fighting the daily battles for the people of Bihar. They are not big enough to win, but give them an alliance and they win big.

Similarly, the BJP cadres work round the year spreading the party’s message. Hence, it reaps the rewards. The BJP is so obsessed with making its campaign reach the last voter that party workers in Bihar were using their smartphones to make non-smartphone users listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches live.

The leadership of these parties is often on the ground, visible and campaigning. They are not known to hide in their bungalows for weeks as Nitish Kumar did. And they are not known to disappear into Delhi or elsewhere for weeks as Tejashwi Yadav does. The result is that both the JD(U) and the RJD, in their own ways, have done poorly.

The JD(U), for the first time, has become junior partner to the BJP in Bihar. It will be easy to blame Chirag Pawan’s LJP for cutting into JD(U)’s votes. But it could do so only because Nitish Kumar had become extremely unpopular. And his party is weakest on the ground. Be it floods or Covid or economic crisis, Nitish Kumar became a leader who spent time in his bungalow rather than among the people. He came across as arrogant, and entitled to the chief minister’s chair.

One can understand Nitish Kumar becoming arrogant after being chief minister for 15 years. But what explains Tejashwi Yadav’s entitlement that the 31-year-old thought he could campaign for less than two months and win the state? Those 19 rallies a day don’t make up for not being with the people when they were drowning in floods.


Also read: In Bihar, BJP likely to get more cabinet berths but Nitish Kumar will be CM


An election for the taking

There was such extreme anger against Nitish Kumar that this Bihar election was for the taking. The NDA alliance was in a bad shape with Chirag Paswan causing a lot of confusion. There was a general sentiment to get rid of Nitish Kumar. This sentiment had reflected itself in surveys for some time — except people said they didn’t have an alternative.

Tejashwi Yadav had to become that alternative. He had to take the ‘Nitish Hatao’ (remove Nitish) sentiment and convert it into ‘Tejashwi Lao’ (bring Tejashwi) sentiment. As journalist Vandita Mishra of The Indian Express astutely observed on the ground in Bihar: “Across castes, including in the Yadavs, you hear an anti-Nitish argument that still doesn’t quite sound pro-Tejashwi.”

The RJD leader would have won the Bihar election if he had merely walked home with migrant labourers from Delhi to Patna, and he would have won it handsomely if the Modi government had made the mistake of stopping him. Instead, he was at home in Delhi. 

Tejashwi Yadav could have won this election with a landslide if he had been around with the people of Bihar, sharing their grief and anger and sorrow all these months. This was a dream election for any opposition leader. What does a challenger want other than an unpopular incumbent? This election was for the taking, but Tejashwi Yadav turned out to be that student who thinks he can pass the exam by studying just for two months. 

Yes, he did do a fairly good job when he began. His message was pitch perfect. He did make one blunder, but Nitish Kumar and the NDA made many more. His message was on point. He did capture the imagination of the youth, across caste lines. He attacked the biggest issue — unemployment — which resonated with people. His campaign has won the approval of liberal commentators and opposition supporters only because he was not Rahul Gandhi. Had Rahul Gandhi been in Tejashwi’s place, he would have attacked Nitish Kumar on corruption for the Srijan scam rather than doing a positive campaign of promising jobs.


Also read: Despite the sweet victory, Modi-Shah BJP has a Nitish Kumar-sized problem in Bihar


Don’t be Rahul Gandhi

It’s a low bar, to look better than Rahul Gandhi. Yet it wasn’t enough that Tejashwi Yadav knows how to speak and what to speak. He remains Rahul Gandhi-like in one crucial aspect: not being a 24x7x365 politician. The entitled dynasts of the opposition can’t keep themselves aloof from the masses like absentee landlords and just turn up to collect votes before an election. The Bihar polls should have been a Tejashwi wave. It would have been one if he had started earlier.

We see this in election after election. Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy won against a formidable Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh with a two-year-long yatra. Hemant Soren began a ‘Badlav Yatra’ in Jharkhand in August 2019 to win an election in December. Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign in New Delhi began at least six months earlier. The minimum it takes is six months.

Another leader who continues to make this mistake is Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh. We live in the era of permanent campaigning. If you are not occupying the voter’s mind every day, you are not going to be able to defeat a formidable opponent like the BJP.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, all these dynastic leaders, like Tejasavi in Bihar, Akhilesh in UP and Rahul in India, are, what we say in Hindustani “Fasali Bsters “, that the birds who comes when the crop is ripe to be harvested. They come must one or two months before polls, campaign, and disappear till the next election. And after defeat start blaming EVMs. For Bihar, if Tejasavi was serious in politics, he should have taken foot yatras, from the day Nitish left the RJD alliance, and told the people about the shortcomings of Nitish as a defector, who won with the blessings of Lallu and later stabbed in the back of Lallu Prasad. But all these times he remained enjoying in Patna or Dilli. Rahul is famous for his holidaying after defeat. And then they and their fake media friends start blaming Modi and EVMs.

  2. Jungle Raj inherited Yuvraj/ Wolf faking in Lamb’s skin will show his pangs of teeth once a while in between propagating false security and welfare of lambs, and the watchman burly dogs will learn it and gave a life time lesson to wolves.

    Now liberals, leftists, secular media, anti national activitivitist and tukde tukde gang members have ample time till next five years to find
    out where they have been kicked so severely at their bottom ass in the Bihar elections.

  3. Wonderful Analysis ! Putting the nail on the head right on. Let’s hope the new government delivers on its promise and next election is fought on its performance and not on rhetoric and other non issues.

  4. I have some questions for Shivam Vij
    1. If the govt is not doing a good job and opposition is not doing a good job of challenging the govt then who in India is actually performing? On what basis are people voting in elections?
    2. If Modi has no life should Indians wait for someone who also has no life to replace Modi?
    3. Will Owaisi be ever able to get any candidate elected from non-Muslim seats? How is he going to get in the govt in the Hindutva era? And if he is not going to get into the govt, then why is he contesting elections?
    4. Is there is no more middle ground left in Indian politics? Either you are a left ideologue or a right wing bigot or a person appealing exclusively to one community and only these people can be in politics, should the rest just pack up and leave?

  5. Yet , an alliance lead by this entitled brat has scored 110 seats, thanks to Nithish babu!

    15 years is very long time, but Nithish has failed to change the fortunes of the state. Sushasan babu degerated into Palturam in these years but failed to bring Bihar our of poverty! He was lucky enough to get a loyal partner like BJP to support him unconditionally but he treated both BJP and the people of Bihar very badly!

    Had BJP focussed on expanding its base in the state and working on the ground after 2015 poll debacle , instead of choosing a shortcut for power, it would have sweeped the state with 3/4 majority! But their priorities were very different.

  6. I feel awkward when journos point to campaigning as the main reason to win elections. Is everything about that and winning elections?
    I hope ppl start asking questions to opposition on what better they are going to offer than the ruling party instead of how could they win elections.

    Presently BJP is considered to be a party that seems to be delivering more than other parties. They lose election when a better performing opponent is present.
    Everything else does matter little.

    Hope journos become serious in india and give right message to ppl

  7. Whoever wrote this whataboutery must be on the brink of being declared criminally insane. Improve your standards already, such a biased review against the NDA is never going to strengthen the position of the left.

  8. Two God -Fathers from Delhi made difference in final outcome in Bihar . Nitish had Modi s best wishes and Tejasawi was blessed by Rahul Gandhi.

  9. You can not be too serious wishing Lalu clan back in power. It is heartening that Bihar voters prevented these ruffians. There is no replacement at the moment for Nitish Kumar a clean and serious politician. Bihar deserves him for one more term.
    Lalu clan should be kept miles from seat of power in Patna and Delhi. They have piled enough assets another chance at power would allow en mass loot and they know how to get away with it.

  10. What a report? If the author wants to color quote Congress, so be it. Tejawswi did show some guts and win in 70+ seats, the highest by any party in Bihar in this election. But how? Is it because of Congress losing, Tejaswi winning lesser seats, communists getting more??? Is it against Nitish Kumar? It is all because of another lunatic called Chirag “Paswan”, who wants to pep up BJP undermining Nitish and ended up in a mess. If Chirag would not have contested 120+ seats, The NDA would have won 175+ with MGB getting less than 70 and Congress nowhere. The author absolutely failed to analyze the maths properly. End of the day, it was Modi who was having the last laugh, putting Nitish back in his seat for one more term. This time, Modi has grown much more in size. Gone are those days, when the Nitish alliance won 213 seats.

  11. Very good analysis. However, I doubt if the LJP votes will go to JDU. It was evident that voters were angry with Nitish, how will they have voted for JDU rather than RJD, is my question.

  12. Do you seriously believe one can rise above caste arithmetic ? Only if your rival caste people gets tired and indifferent and chooses not to vote, you have an edge. Otherwise dominant castes in alliance with some other castes with superior numbers will go on prevailing.

  13. An excellent analysis. Tejashwi is after all in the mold of his father, a product of the feudal tradition of Bihar — all about entitlement and no commitment to deliver. The first thing he must have said to the people of Bihar was that he was sorry for the hurt the regimes of his father and mother had caused to the Biharis. Then he should have introduced a modicum of inner party democracy, debate and cadre building/training that might have led him to nominate clean and dedicated candidates at the time of the election. Instead, like his father, he looked upon his caste and party followers as the minions who were there just to work for his interest. He ended up giving nominations to candidates with criminal records, corruption charges and to the turncoats.
    A lot of hope was pinned on the leadership emerging from the millenial generation — don’t expect that from the likes of Tejashwi, Tejpratap or Chirag in Bihar..

  14. I think the seat distribution of RJD doesn’t represented what he claimed that he is not fighting as a party of one block of the society. People are not naive.

  15. I think the seat distribution of RJD doesn’t represented what he claimed that he is not fighting as a party of one block of the society. People are not naive.
    Jdu is considered as party of certain castes but if u see their seat distribution then almost all castes including yadavs are fairly represented. But you don’t see it in RJD.

  16. Mr. Shivam Vij’s contempt and disdain for the BJP is the underlying thread of each of his articles. Look at how positively he talks about the “work” done by CPI(ML)L and AIMIM party workers. But when it comes to the BJP, he finishes off in a single line in a perfunctory manner. Also, he does not even mention once that it is the BJP workers who are paying a heavy price for their political work and ideology. Across states, they are being killed and are victims of gruesome violence and abuse. Deapite that they march on.
    Mr. Vij’s personal inclinations and biases are too big a factor for him to be able to analyse things impartially.

  17. You all so called analysts and commentators are only good to explain the events after they happen.. n typically, explain you do in same old ways. There is no predictive value to your studies. It serves nothing but to inflate your own feel good about yourself may be. For eg If these people were good enough to accurately observe anti incumbency against nitish kumar & his ministers only & not against BJP, why could they not during the polling explain that it was not getting translated enough into votes for RJD..

    It’s like stock markets.. After markets go up or fall, we have a whole bunch of experts telling us, why did it do so..

    Readers would be interested to know if these analysts could go to say a West Bengal, observe the state over next few months and tell them if there is anti incumbency, is it translating into votes & so on. After elections, everyone is an expert.

  18. Defeat in a battle and so many shortcoming start showing up. Av win covers up all all. He raised issue of jobs and promised jobs in the government. this promise was utterly difficult to implement. Why media is not questioning leaders promising the njobs. the government jobs are draining all useful resources and not delivering much on ground. No more secure highly paid government jobs. And what is harm in going out of highly populous states to work. Keralite are doing it by going to Gulf. The populous and poor states can not give jobs to all. Human resources of any states are also assets which can bring money in state by working outside the states. Not all states can have industries. Some has to have alrgely agricuture based economy.

  19. It is quite entertaining to see the beautiful mind of Shivam Vij disintegrating with distress. Be warned Shivam, the days of macaulayites like you are numbered. There is a revolution brewing in the remote villages and towns of Bharat, which is going to sweep away fascists of your ilk.

  20. Spot on. Opposition parties have not taken opportunities provided by Modi. They are not posing as BJP alternatives at all. Iam watching them day in and day out. They simply are not on ground! they magically appear during election time. All their current efforts seem political. Winning next election starts now. Did they hear it? (I guess not!) People put faith in what they see, hear experience every day. Atleast these days as evidenced by elections in the past 5 – 10 years. The days of buying votes for money which is a standard affair for political parties may be over even in states like Bihar. That seems like the progress this country made. Even if we are not Singapore yet.

  21. It’s good that TJ lost but it’s a shame that he is being celebrated by the media.
    He and his dad created the worst kind of jungle raj, despite all manipulations, his dad was convicted of corruption, a rare thing in India.
    His only qualification that he now hides is that he is the son of Lalu Yadav.
    Thank you Modiji for saving Bihar from Jungle Raj 2.0 under this nincompoop.

  22. Whenever you want to get chuckles, visit the author’s column. Author has a gravity defying imagination almost always.

    Absolving congress from malice every time. People can see congress doesn’t owe to any mistakes but shifts the blame elsewhere.

    People cannot vote for a yadu, caretaker of cows, who steals chara from cow and feeds his family in lakhs of crore, live a lavish lifestyle outside Bihar, and unleashes a jungle Raj in Bihar for 2 decades.

    No matter what the grievances with Nitish were, he was and is a better choice for Indians in Bihar.

  23. Author is the biggest loser!! Was tom-tomming Tejashwi, now after the loss he discovers the secret to winning elections in India.
    “Pseudo left liberal” schmuck..

  24. A very good finding. But the author have skipped a major event which took place just before the declaration of official poll dates. Home Minister visited Bihar Capital only to hand over one lakh Smartphones and raw cash to the BJP Party Workers for their distribution among the people. It played a good roll too.

  25. “It is the RJD that won 15 less seats than it expected.”? And how many BJP was expected to win, and how many it actually won? Modi the star campaigner hd held many rallies, and was screaming so much at the top of his voice that a vote for RJD was a vote for ‘jungle raj’, that his voice went hoarse. He of course spent crores, perhaps more than all the other parties combined.And what was the result? Tejaswi’s RJD turned out to be the MAJORITY party, winning 75 seats against Modi’s BJP’s 74 seats! THE QUESTION IS, HOW THE SUPERMAN MODI COULD HAVE LOST TO THE SON OF CORRUPT LALU OF ‘JUNGLE RAJ’ FAME? Even looking at the performance of NDA, it wn only 125 seats, while minimum required seats to form the government is 122. only three lousy more seats! TEJSWI’S PERFORMANCE AGAINST HEAVY ODDS WAS GOOD. IT WAS MODI’S PERFORMANCE THAT WAS REGRETTABLE!

  26. The Print why have you not published my comment.

    Btw, my comment was:

    ROFLMAO….blah blah blah and more blah. Came here for the laughs and was not disappointed.
    Analysis as perceptive as the exit polls!

  27. Sensible human can imagine the level of Atrocities during lalu are way ahead of being heinous. Better not unleash and encourage the filth.

  28. Have a strong feeling, NM’s last leg of campaign in bihar really made a tremendous difference. Congress and RJD got balakoted by the PM.

  29. If being with people gets you vote what explains pappu yadav’s performance,he was most visible leader in all calamities and even otherwise too

  30. What about a mea culpa from you. On the day of the counting you & Aswini Kumar were tom-toming about the rise of the millennial generation in Bihar in the form of Tejashwi in the interview with Barkha Dutt. And within 24 hours you are blaming him for the loss!!

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