NEW DELHI: It is not rocket science. The Grand Alliance won Bihar because of a credible counter narrative, that based itself on dignity, development and social justice for all. And exposed the BJP narrative of factionalism, divisiveness and hollow promises (of the Lok Sabha elections) that struck fear in a section of the people, disdain in others and was rejected as a whole.

Look at the difference in the campaign that the voter in Bihar noticed, and commented upon to journalists who cared to listen. The Citizen team touring the state during the first phase of the elections was told very clearly by the voters that one, Nitish Kumar as a Chief Minister was excellent. That he had developed the state, that he stood by what he said, that he was sober and inclusive in his approach, and no one has done more for Bihar in living memory than him. The Citizen had recorded these interviews and published them at the time.

The grand alliance’s campaign for the elections was a mix of Nitish Kumar’s sobriety and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav’s humour with the latter emerging as what many voters said, the “old Lalu” with the swagger and the laughter. It was low key, as there was no money, but it was intense as the two leaders and their parties moved from district to district, establishing direct rapport with the people, and speaking directly to them. There was no grandstanding, no tall promises, just dialogue that has clearly worked. Every now and again Chief Minister Kumar would address a press conference, and armed with facts and figures punch holes in the BJP’s campaign. While Lalu Yadav would at a public meeting make fun of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, drawing laughter, in his inimitable fashion.

The two brought back the old social justice vote that had scattered because of divisions between the key leaders. While the Yadavs, Kurmis and Muslims had consolidated behind the grand alliance in the initial stages itself there was some confusion in the extreme backward and Dalit votes that was being specifically targeted by the BJP through a highly communal campaign. However, the churning was visible and clearly in several constituencies---hence the grand alliance sweep---this vote settled back into the old social justice more.

They also carried out a relentless campaign against efforts to communalise and polarise Bihar. Both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, in their campaign, warned the people quietly against such efforts by the BJP and urged them not to respond at all. This was one of the reasons why the Bihar voters kept insisting to The Citizen reporters that all was peaceful, there was no tension, and there would not be at all.

The voters had turned against the BJP that had virtually swept the Assembly segments just 17 months ago, during the Lok Sabha elections. The grand promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had swayed the voters, particularly the youth here as well. A particularly seductive promise was that the PM would put money into the bank accounts opened by the people. This did not happen, and the JD(U) and the RJD took this campaign deep into the Bihar constituencies quietly and very effectively.

And finally another major reason was that both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav are known and trusted by most of the voters in Bihar. While Kumar’s appeal cuts across all castes, and Lalu Yadav’s does not enter the upper castes domain, even so the two of them were formidable, coming from the same end of the social justice spectrum. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s initial comment against reservations helped further, with this statement being carried by the party grapevine into the concerned sections of society who were already reacting against the barbs on ‘jungle raj’ and ‘ Bihari DNA.”