ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nitish Kumar's Triumph

An improved administration with a selective use of identity helps the ruling coalition triumph in Bihar

In what must be described as an expected result, the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition has come up trumps in the Bihar state assembly elections. The coalition has not just won. By achieving a threefourths majority in the assembly, it has nearly annihilated the opposition comprising the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) alliance and the Congress Party. The outcome repeats the Lok Sabha election results in 2009. The reasons for the strong victory in the assembly elections are the same as in the Lok Sabha polls – a very positive perception about the JD(U)-BJP government’s public works programme and the quality of state admini stration as also the ruling coalition’s very deft use of identity to shore up its base.

Most commentators have been quick to describe the election results as a vote for “development” and a turning away from the politics of identity. It is difficult to accept such easy descriptions since the JD(U)-BJP alliance had not shirked from identity politics; it had indeed worked hard to win over new sections from certain caste groups. The ruling coalition had organised “Mahadalit sammelans”, introduced reservations for backward sections among Muslims, targeted welfare measures at backward communities and announced a reservation of 50% seats for women in the local bodies.

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