NEW DELHI: It’s been a couple of days since the Bihar election results were announced, and since then an innumerable number of analyses have sprung up on why the BJP lost and who was to blame. A quick recap of the theories include Prime Minister Modi’s diminishing popularity, Mohan Bhagwat’s reservation comments, the beef controversy, the ‘bahri’ (outsider) versus Bihari issue, and my favourite: assertions that the BJP didn’t really ‘lose’ as it forced the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal into an alliance, and the result was purely an arithmetic corollary of that union (isn’t that how results work?).

Lost in the analysis however seems to be what this writer saw on the ground in Bihar. A team from this publication travelled from Patna through Vaishali, Samastipur, Kalyanpur, Muzaffarpur, Jehanabad and Gaya, and using good old fashioned reportage, spoke to the common voter in Bihar. In fact, this publication was amongst the few at the time that roundly predicted a Mahagathbandhan victory, whilst the mainstream media and political pundits -- without stepping out of their air conditioned studios -- droned on about how the 2015 Bihar elections were too close to call.

If anyone had bothered to get on the ground (and in this case at least, traded in their fancy tricks of surveys and exit polls for simpler but far more efficacious journalism), the verdict would have been clear from the start. This was NOT a “close” fight, as was evident in what the voters of Bihar told us. “We are voting for Nitish Kumar,” was the overwhelming response.

As for the response to the questions “why?” (Why did the BJP lose or Why did Nitish Kumar win?), it is prudent to once again turn to the voters of Bihar for the answer.

Nitish Kumar (and the work he has done) as a factor

As much as the BJP and a section of the political class are attempting to paint the results as a purely mathematical outcome, this vote was for Nitish Kumar. The RJD managed to go from 22 seats in the 2010 Assembly elections to 80 in the 2015 elections. The Congress went to 27 seats from 4 in the last assembly. The analysis in the media is making a huge deal of these gains. Is it an RJD comeback? Is the Congress seeing a resurgence?

As far as the voters were concerned, they were voting for the “mahagathbandhan.” “Hum teer ko vote denge (we will vote for the alliance)” crowds of people chorused. When you asked them why, the answer -- even when the seat in question had an RJD/Congress and not a JDU candidate -- was never about Lalu Prasad Yadav or the Congress party, but categorically in favour of Nitish Kumar.

And what about Nitish Kumar? “Vikas,” was the overwhelmingly dominant theme. As a certain Jitendar Rajak told us in Phulwari Sharif, “In Nitish Kumar’s tenure we have seen lots of development. Many roads have come up.”

This is not to deny the fact that caste politics and numbers were at work. The Yadavs consolidated behind Lalu, but the answer to why this happened takes the analysis back to Nitish. At a tea stall in Hajipur, a group of Yadavs told us why they were voting for the local RJD candidate (Lalu Yadav wasn’t mentioned even once). “Nitish Kumar has done a lot for development. There’s electricity in the village. There’s a road. There’s safety - ten years ago you couldn’t travel on this road after dark,” said Parichand Rai in response to the question “why?”.

A rumour was doing the rounds that at PM Modi’s rally in Samastipur, the PM rhetorically asked the crowd, “bijli aayi?” hoping to elicit answers in the negative. “Aayi, aayi,” the crowd chorused instead. Nitish Kumar referred to the incident at a press conference in Patna, but its real impact was felt in the villages of Bihar where the issue of electricity galvanised voters to such an extent that everywhere we went, people exaggerated the number of hours their village had electricity in an effort to praise Nitish Kumar’s work.

This story was the same everywhere we went. At a railway crossing, that we were told is known as Sehranjan, the mood was infectious. “Nitish Kumar will win,” a crowd chanted in unison. “He is the number one CM of India,” they said. “Nitish Kumar has given food, clothes, electricity, roads. He has given us cycles and schools. A lot has changed in Bihar and we want only him,” says a man in the crowd. “There will be a tsunami in Bihar for Nitish Kumar,” concluded a certain Debendra Prasad Rajat.

And a tsunami it was.

The BJP (and communal politics) as a factor

Although this victory cannot be taken away from Nitish Kumar, the BJP played its politics all wrong. While the rhetoric played up the beef controversy and divisive politics, the voter on the ground felt more and more alienated.

“I don’t like the way Narendra Modi speaks,” Binder Rai near Paswan Chowk told us. “Words like shaitan; this is no way to speak.” “Modi bahut ganda bolta hai (Modi speaks very badly),” we heard repeated numerous times.

We made it a point to ask the voters whether the beef controversy that was playing out in election speeches and in the media had any bearing on their vote? It didn’t. In fact, voters made it a point to reiterate that Bihar prides itself on communal harmony, and attempts to polarise the vote were not going to be rewarded. “No matter what happens in the rest of the world, in Bihar and specifically in Jehanabad, Hindus and Muslims and people of all religions will live together in peace,” said a man named Chaudhary in Jehanabad district.

In Samastipur, the team was the cause of an intense political debate between BJP voters (from the baniya community) and JDU supporters. At a sari shop, the two sides argued intensely. The beef controversy came up.

“Mahagathbandhan has lost favour because of all the beef comments made by Lalu Yadav,” said one of the shopkeepers. This was flatly denied by the other side (we too told the group that through our travels, most voters said that the comments had no bearing). “Did it matter to you?” we ask. “No,” the man admitted.

As quick as tempers had flared, they cooled down, with the opposing sides sharing hot cups of sweet tea with big smiles. “This is all politics,” they tell us. “No matter which side we are on, in the end it doesn’t matter. We live side by side. Nothing is going to change that.”

Another factor that has been glossed over by the media is related to the BJP’s mandate in the 2014 General Elections. As Mohammad Suhail Khan told us near Gaya, “BJP waale bahoot jhoot bolten hain (the BJP lies a lot)”. What did he mean? The BJP, in the run up to the 2014 elections made a lot of tall promises in a bid to secure votes; promises the party did not deliver on.

Gajandhar Shah, a customer at a shop in Hajipur told us, “The BJP lies a lot. They told us to open a bank account and that money would be deposited. We sold our goats to do so. Not a penny has come in.”

The Dalit, Mahadalit and Muslim vote

All elections come down to numbers, and the numbers in the Bihar polls were overwhelmingly in favour of the Grand Alliance. The Yadavs, Kurmis and part of the Muslim vote was behind the Mahagathbandhan, whilst the forward caste vote was rallying behind the BJP, was the consensus. The Dalit and Mahadalit vote would decide this election. Where the pundits got it wrong, however, was in giving this crucial vote to the BJP. Why? Because of Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi, whose Lok Janshakti Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha, respectively, were supposed to win the NDA the backward caste votes.

In the end, in the 38 seats reserved for scheduled castes in the Bihar assembly, the NDA won only 7. This represents a huge decline from the 18 won by the BJP in 2010 and the 24 leads for the NDA in last year's Lok Sabha polls. The Mahagathbandhan, on the other hand, increased its tally from 13 leads in 2014 to 29 in the 2015 assembly elections.

For anyone who did the needed fieldwork in Bihar, the fact that this vote was going to the Mahagathbandhan would have been obvious. Why? “Vikas” is the answer. As Virendar Sahni, a customer (who identified himself as belonging to a Dalit caste) at a tea stall by a small Dalit basti in Samastipur told us, “We have doctors. We have medicines. We have cycles. We have electricity… How can we not vote for Nitish Kumar?”

At a village off the road linking Jehanabad to Gaya, the team was the cause of an emotional debate. Thinking we were from the government, a group of women belonging to the backward castes related how difficult life was for them. “Come see our houses if you want to see how poorly we live,” they said. “Do you want a change of government,” we ask. The crowd remained silent. At that moment, a smartly dressed man who was passing by loudly interected, “Anyone who doesn’t vote for Nitish Kumar is a traitor.” No one disagreed.

In addition to the backward vote, the Muslim vote was hotly debate in the run up to the elections. Pundits deliberated on the question: Will Owaisi and his All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party be a factor in fragmenting the Muslim vote?

As the team traveled through Bihar, stopping in a number of Muslim-majority areas, Owaisi and the AIMIM did not come up even once. And although “vikas” was the dominant point of conversation, with it seeming like the Muslim community in Bihar was making it a point to steer clear of commenting on divisive rhetoric, the fact that it was more than just vikas was evinced in the following exchange. “What are you voting for?” we asked a crowd at Phulwari Sharif. “Vikas” answered a man named Mohammad. “And shanti” (peace) he quietly added as the crowd disperses as quickly as it had gathered.

So why did the Mahagathbandhan win this election? The answer is in two words (and a comment): “vikas” and “shanti” (and Nitish Kumar’s record on both counts).

(Follow Gayeti Singh on Twitter: @Gayeti)