Bihar elections: Rajdeep Sardesai’s flip-flop on caste politics and polarisation as trends show BJP in lead

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Rajdeep Sardesai was elated over the exit polls that had predicted an RJD win

— Consider reading the article Bihar elections: Rajdeep Sardesai’s flip-flop on caste politics and polarisation as trends show BJP in lead on OpIndia website —

While the country is patiently waiting for the results of Bihar elections, several ‘political pundits’ have been hopping from one argument to the other in order to rationalise the voting trends.

India Today had claimed in its exit polls that Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav is the preferred Chief Minister. It had claimed a sweeping victory for the Mahagatbandhan, an alliance of RJD and the Congress party. According to the My Axis exit polls, unemployment and economic concerns happen to be the primary issue for the electorates in Bihar.

Rajdeep Sardesai had claimed that Tejashwi Yadav had been successful in localising the elections by focusing his campaign on economic issues, in the aftermath of the pandemic. He had also claimed that the government was living in denial on economic issues and that Yadav was able to capitalise on the job losses and economic distress faced by migrant workers of Bihar. While discussing the rationale behind the prediction that Mahagatbandhan will have a clear victory in the elections, Rajdeep Sardesai attributed it specifically to its ‘robust’ campaign on the economic front.

When early trends show exit polls were off, Rajdeep comes back to ‘caste’ and ‘polarisation’

On the counting day, the election trends initially favoured the predictions made by My Axis. At one point, NDA was leading in only 79 seats whereas RJD-Congress alliance was leading on 106 seats. While Rajdeep Sardesai had claimed ‘economic concerns’ to be the reason for their predicted victory, he came up with a different explanation to justify the trends.

“In Champaran, you can see that it is a tougher fight. This is an area where NDA is holding its own. Large upper caste population as well,” Sardesai claimed. While talking about the Kosi region, he informed that the RJD is leading there and pointed out that the region is dominated by Yadav caste. “So, the Yadavs are consolidating around the RJD”, he explained. “Polarisation-counter polarisation! The RJD ‘winning’ the Muslim dominated seats in Kathiyar, Kishanganj and Araria but NDA too not doing badly. Seemanchal is a relatively small area and can be a situation of worry for the RJD,” Rajdeep Sardesai emphasised.

Far from ‘economic concerns’ as claimed by Sardesai during an exit-poll discussion earlier, he insinuated that caste and polarisation played a strong role in RJD’s favour on Tuesday morning.

Rajdeep Sardesai pushes ‘polarisation angle’

When election trends began to favour the BJP-JD(U) alliance over the Mahagatbandhan later in the day, Rahul Srivastava, National Affairs Editor of India Today, insinuated that polarisation too played a ‘significant role’ in the elections. “If you look at the speech of the Prime Minister on November 3, he said that ‘they’ don’t want to listen to chants of Jai Shri Ram… The enemies of the nation are ganging up together, he said. The BJP did move with its polarising rhetoric and this is where the BJP leadership must have been working, he claimed.”

Political analyst Rajat Sethi pointed out that polarisation campaign was started by Congress scion Rahul Gandhi when he talked about setting up an Aligarh Muslim University in Seemanchal and thereby targetted a particular ‘voter segment.’ However, anguished by seeing BJP take the lead and Sethi questioning the secular credentials of Rahul Gandhi, Rajdeep defended, “Let’s be clear. It’s not as if Yogi Adityanath or PM Modi did not polarise.”

On being questioned by Sethi as to why he did not talk about the polarisation attempts of Rahul Gandhi, Rajdeep Sardesai fell short of words. After a brief period of gibberish talk, Sardesai resorted to monkey balancing and conceded that polarisation took place on both sides. Following that, Sethi quizzed Sardesai’s deliberate attempt to ignore Rahul Gandhi’s statement. The India today senior journalist was caught in a state of fix. But, he was eventually rescued by his co-host Rahul Kanwal.

Screengrab of the India Today programme

The polarisation trope

It is interesting to see how the ‘political analysis’ of Rajdeep Sardesai flip-flopped as the trends changed in BJP’s favour. Sardesai, who was earlier seen crediting the people of Bihar for reposing their faith in the economic concerns raised by Tejashwi Yadav, discussed in details how caste played a strong role in RJD’s favour on the morning of the results of the election. It is important to remember that RJD was leading by a big margin against the BJP. However, as trends favoured the BJP, Rajdeep Sardesai insinuated that people were taken away by BJP’s so-called ‘polarisation strategies’. While the India Today anchor is known for his flip-flops, Sardesai’s brazen hypocrisy becomes all the way apparent in his discussion on election results.

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