On the face of it, the Bihar elections were closely contested. The NDA won 125 seats and polled 37.26% of the vote. The Mahagathbandhan (MGB), consisting of the RJD, the Congress and the Left, won 110 seats and polled 37.21% of the vote. But was it really that close? When you break down the results phase by phase, as in this graphic from the Times of India, a strikingly different picture emerges.
It started out as a wave election in favor of MGB. In Phase I, the NDA won a mere 22 seats compared to 47 for the MGB. In Phase II, the NDA took a hard fought lead, grabbing 51 seats to 41 for the MGB. And in Phase III, the MGB was almost wiped out, with the NDA taking 2/3rd of the available seats. What began as a wave election for MGB ended up as a win for NDA.
What happened? After the first phase, word must have spread on the ground. Even if exit poll data was not publicly available, the internal assessments would be there. It would show in the body language of netas and ground level workers. Voters would know about the hawa. Under ordinary circumstances, the massive anti-incumbency wave from Phase I should have picked up strength as it washed across the state.
But the opposite happened. It is almost as if somebody heard about the hawa and came out to stop it. Here is the simplest explanation.
In Phase I, male voter turnout was 57%, which was slightly higher than the female turnout of 54%. The RJD led alliance swept this phase.
By Phase II, that changed. The female voter turnout rose to 59%, exceeding the male voter turnout by a healthy 5%. The NDA grabbed a lead over the RJD in this phase.
The magic happens in Phase III. The female voter turnout rises to an astonishing 65%, nearly 11% more than the male voter turnout. The NDA sweeps this phase, wipes out the RJD and wins this election.
The conclusion is obvious. Women of Bihar must have heard about the hawa. In Delhi, the media could barely restrain their delight. The TV anchors could barely keep themselves from breaking into song and dance. The crowds at Tejashwi’s rallies were driving them wild with “liberalism.”
But where liberal media sensed victory (and smelled crumbs), the women of Bihar smelled fear. Lalu-raj was coming back. They decided to stop it. The Indian Constitution gives them the right. They used it to devastating effect. In that sense, Bihar is an outstanding example of feminist assertion on a mass scale.
So why aren’t the alleged feminists celebrating in Delhi, New York, London and Paris? Aren’t they delighted that their poor sisters in backward regions of Bihar have recognized and asserted their authority?
I haven’t noticed much rejoicing in those circles about the Bihar verdict. Have you?
A few days ago, one Phalasha Nagpal had come to the following conclusions in the pages of the Indian Express:
“With over half of the female population unable to even read or write, one may question whether the women even have any understanding of political ideologies or any inclination to vote for a specific party.”
Wow! That was insulting. There’s more:
“… with virtually no reproductive, economic and social agency, an average woman in Bihar is likely to make similar political choices as her male counterpart….”
The Indian Express introduces the writer as a “social policy researcher and analyst” (whatever that means).
I am neither a social policy researcher nor an analyst. But I have some questions for them. Is it possible that social policy researchers lack understanding of society, or even the inclination to understand society? At least, let us hope that in social policy research circles, where all people can presumably read and write, the women have as much agency as the men. I am hoping Ms. Nagpal will write a follow up article refining her conclusions about the women of Bihar. Are you?
There are other questions here. What about the ground reporters who told us about the Tejashwi hawa? Why did they fail to bring out the voices of the women of Bihar in the course of the campaign? Did they make up their minds by speaking to just 50% of the electorate? If they chose to ignore, whether consciously or unconsciously, the other half of the population, is this not patriarchy? Have they examined their prejudices or apologized publicly? Have they said what they will do in the future to avoid repeating this error?
And above all, will there be apologies from those who constantly try to corner the BJP as patriarchal and regressive?
America and Bihar. The results came out within a week of each other. The two places could not be more different in terms of standard of living. But they are united by a common thread of democracy. And in both places, women made the difference. While male voters were roughly evenly split between Biden and Trump, female voters gave Biden a landslide.
Both America and Bihar were expressions of feminism. But the women of America were celebrated. The women of Bihar were not.
Is it because the commentariat perhaps did not enjoy the result in Bihar as much as it enjoyed the result in America? Is a woman a feminist only when she sides with a certain political party? If a woman rejects the liberal consensus of fashionable New York and New Delhi based editors, does she cease to be a feminist?
Instead, on results day in Bihar, the fashionable liberal commentariat of New Delhi busied themselves with praising Tejashwi Yadav. A privileged young dynast like no other. He drops out of school in the 9th grade because he has enough privilege to last a lifetime. A month before the election, he emerges from a bungalow and goes on a helicopter tour of Bihar. And the liberal durbar of Delhi can’t stop praising his hard work and merit.
That’s what patriarchy truly means. And all of the liberal universe, including the feminists, are part of it.