The ruling alliance in India's eastern state of Bihar, led by Janata Dal (United)'s Nitish Kumar, has won a landslide victory that could spell trouble for the Congress party in New Delhi.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar won a landslide victory
The celebrations continued all Wednesday as Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar scripted a near perfect victory with voters sweeping his alliance into power for a second term.
The high-stakes battle for power over one of India's poorest and most lawless states, which has a population of 83 million, had pitted former engineer Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) combine of Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan.
Beyond caste politics
The emphatic mandate showed that Kumar's successes on the development and law-and-order fronts had finally gone beyond caste politics and the electorate had voted for an administration that provided good governance.
"It is now clear that it is a very big win for the NDA," enthused Arun Jaitley, general secretary of the BJP. "The result indicates that it is a victory of hope over fear, a victory of optimism over despair. That’s the changed agenda of Bihar. People now look forward to their state and its future development with a sense of pride."
Bihar has long been beset with corruption and an electorate split along caste lines. Perhaps this electoral outcome marks the beginning of a new phase in the state's politics.
Bihar notched a growth rate of over 11 percent in 2008/9, making it India's second fastest-growing state economy, just behind the western state of Gujarat, which is run by the BJP.
Opting for development
N K Singh, a JD (U) MP, said that "people had opted for development, preferring this over historical, class, caste and sectarian divide. Nitish went to the people and was in a sense seeking a referendum on him and his style of government and its achievements, which are centered on development and performance."
For its part, the Congress party put up a dismal show, winning only six seats in the 243-member state assembly against nine in the previous assembly elections of 2005.
Even election tours by the party's star campaigner Rahul Gandhi failed to make an impact.
In a rare appearance after the results, Congress president Sonia Gandhi admitted the party had to do some soul-searching.
"As far as our party is concerned, we didn’t have much hope,” she said. "We took a deliberate decision not to work in alliance with other parties. The results obviously indicate that our party has to start from scratch to rebuild itself. And that is what we plan to do."
Although the results are unlikely to affect the government's survival, they will have implications in New Delhi where the opposition has trained its guns on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government over allegations of graft.
Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Arun Chowdhury