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MESSAGE FOR THE CONGRESS FROM BIHAR

Priya Sahgal

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Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

At the time of writing the Bihar votes were still being counted but over the past few hours a pattern has emerged for us to attempt some preliminary takeaways. While it would be premature to call the election before the votes are declared, one can make some assumptions, especially regarding the performance of the Congress. The party had contested 70 seats but its deliverability rate has not lived up to its promise, with the party being able to convert only around one-fifth of these into seats (going by the trends). Whatever the final tally, one thing seems certain that it is the Congress that has dragged down the numbers for the Mahagathbandhan (MGM) with even the Left parties coming up with a better strike rate. 

During the campaign the entire focus was on Tejashwi Yadav and the kind of campaign he conducted, focusing on new-age issues such as jobs and development instead of the old caste and religion-based fault-lines. It was he who got the BJP and the JD(U) to bring back jobs on their poll talk. He certainly was the discovery of this election as he got the crowds, and swept the exit polls. While he may not form the government, there is no denying that he has emerged as the Man of the Match, one who lives to fight another day. His ally, however, needs to go in for some serious introspection. The Congress needs to get its act together before it becomes a liability for the UPA. Already Akhilesh Yadav blames the Congress for the loss in the 2017 Assembly polls (the SP had fought this in an alliance with the Congress); Mamata Bannerjee is not keen to tie up with the Congress in West Bengal; and, now it seems as if Tejashwi Yadav may end up regretting this alliance. Definitely, he must be regretting giving such a large chunk of seats to the Congress.

Certainly this was a state election where both the BJP and the Congress were expected to play a supporting role but not the lead. Within the NDA, the BJP has taken the lead, getting more seats than the JD(U), but within the MGM the Congress has not even managed to play a convincing second fiddle. And this is at a time when the country has been hit by a pandemic, the economy is at an all-time low and we are in the middle of a face-off at our border. Even at such a time the PM’s credibility was at an all-time high. NewsX has been covering the elections extensively and after every phase of voting the voters came out and said that they had voted for jobs and development. When asked whom they felt was best placed to deliver on these issues, the answer varied from PM Modi to Tejashwi. Not the Congress. Hence one can argue that this election was a game changer in that the narrative was a new-age one; the voters also belonged to a post JP era that did not identify with either Lalu Yadav or Nitish Kumar but looked to the leader that they felt would best deliver on the jobs. And voted accordingly, dividing the chunk of vote between Modi and Tejashwi and to a lesser extent Nitish Kumar.

Right before the elections began the Congress was facing a leadership crisis with 23 of its leaders writing a letter raising some pertinent questions about the workings of the party. This should have led to an introspection but that did not happen. The Bihar result is the first casualty. Will Bengal and Assam follow?

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According to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Santosh Kumar Singh, the man’s wife and two of his daughters died on the spot while one daughter is in critical condition and has been admitted to the hospital. The bodies have been sent for postmortem.
The accused, identified as Saeed, fled the scene after the incident and the police has launched a probe to locate his whereabouts.
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