The verdict in the closely contested Bihar elections will have its progressive significance. The results have shown that coalition politics continues to be relevant. Both the NDA and the Mahagathbandhan have done well in the state, even as the government at the Centre finds itself running out of allies. But it will be the post-poll scenario that will indicate whether coalition dharma also remains equally pertinent. The successful conduct of the polls by the Election Commission of India in times of Covid has been encouraging but reflects the fact that parties and leaders need to reinvent themselves to battle anti-incumbency and factor in change. Political parties are about collective leadership when it comes to decision-making. The JDU under the stewardship of Nitish Kumar remained in power mostly on the basis of alliances, yet his singular grip on the government may well hold lessons for other leaders who don’t have a succession plan.
The NDA in Bihar had managed social cohesion, but with the BJP going past ally JDU in numbers, equations will have to ensure that there is no slide as progress depends on stability. The plight of the migrant workers who went back in large numbers after the outbreak of the pandemic also needs attention. Development projects need a big push in Bihar that has seen its options shrink after the carving out of mineral-rich Jharkhand. Whether the new government is able to open up avenues for the working class will remain critical. Infrastructure and agro-based industry will need renewed thrust for lack of employment avenues will translate into unrest.
Young leaders like Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan injected freshness into the electoral arena with their energetic campaign. That despite their limitations, they picked up the gauntlet and mirrored the aspirations of a new generation will remain an encouraging feature for the polity. It also marks a stage of transition and the present arrangement may well be the precursor to a generational changeover in the state’s politics.