Looks like this time, the competition for the nail-biting finish on Nov 10th was between Bihar Election Results and IPL Final. And the clear winner was Bihar Election Results.
Though the initial trend was favoring the MGB just like the exit polls predicted, NDA propelled by the BJP rose and the counting kept the citizens and all parties at tender hooks till the end and finally romped home with a wafer-thin margin. These are the party-wise final results of Bihar Polls.
NDA-125, MGB-110, Others-8
RJD was the largest party in this election but was effectively pulled down by its ally, the Congress, which contested 70 seats to win only 19, with the lowest winning percentage of 26% amongst all major parties contested. While BJP came as the second-largest party, winning 74 out of 121 contested, was the most successful party in terms of winning percentage of seats contested, winning 61% of the seats contested, thereby propelling NDA to whiz past the half-way mark. Here is the winning percentage of seats contested by major parties:
Analysis of the results:
Women Voters: It appears that the silent voters of Bihar, comprising of women voters who are the stable vote bank of Nitish, made the difference. Silent because, unlike other voters who cheer, boo or clap during the campaign, this set of voters remain silent and delivered for Nitish. This time, women voters were a clear 5% points more than men (54.6% men Vs 59.7% women voters turned up) and the CSDS opinion poll shows that 41% of women voted for NDA while only 31% of women voted for MGB this time. Central schemes like the free gas and state schemes like the bicycle scheme, Rs55,000 grant for girl students till graduation, 50% reservation for women at Panchayat level and 35% quota for women in government jobs apart from prohibition seems to have delivered for NDA
Seemanchal Region: This region with 24 seats, had been the traditional bastion for RJD-Congress as many areas have a high percentage of the Muslim population like Kishanganj has 70% Muslim votes, Araria-45%, Katihar-40%, Purnia-30% and so on. AIMIM, which contested 6 seats in 2015 and drew a blank, this time, contested in 14 seats and its allies of GDSP (Grand Democratic Secular Front) RLSP of Upendra Kushwaha and Mayawati's BSP and Devendra Yadav's SJDD contested in those places where the Muslim population was high. While AIMIM won 5 out of 14 seats it contested from this region, its party candidates have split the votes and decimated the chances of RJD-Congress. E.g., in Amour assembly seat, AIMIM secured 56.5% of the votes polled while Congress got just 11.4% of votes. In Kochadhaman, AIMIM got 56.7% of the votes while RJD got just 7.4% votes. Similarly, in Bahadurganj, AIMIM got 44.4% of votes while Congress got just 11.7% of votes. Muslims shifted their loyalties to AIMIM after Owaisi addressed multiple rallies and attacked RJD-Congress rather than BJP in all his rallies and raised issues like CAA-NRC and Seemanchal's backwardness. RJD-Congress was silent on these issues. Thus, the Muslims in Seemanchal have reposed their faith with AIMIM this time.
If AIMIM was a vote-cutter in the Seemanchal region for MGB, LJP was a vote-cutter for NDA, especially in those seats where JDU contested. LJP got close to 5.6% votes and played the spoiler for NDA/JDU in close to 38 seats, where it polled more votes than the margin between the winning and losing candidates. Whether these votes were the anti-incumbency votes which would have otherwise gone to MGB is something that needs analysis.
Apart from these factors, the Modi factor and his charisma have swept the Bihar polls this time. BJP won 21 seats more in 2020 compared to 2015. Despite the COVID 19 pandemic and migrant crisis, voters have felt that Modi has done what best could be done in the crisis. His constant interaction and addressing the citizens, free ration for BPL families during the lockdown and beyond, Direct Money Transfer to farmers, migrant workers, free gas cylinders to poor women, all these have certainly helped BJP this time. The fact that BJP had done well not just in Bihar but in the by-polls in MP, Karnataka, Telangana, UP, Manipur, Gujarat, etc clearly demonstrates that Modi factor is a factor that no party can ward off, even after 6 years. All parties seem to struggle to combat the Modi factor
This is also the election which was trying to establish the next generation of political heirs - Chirag Paswan, S/o Ram Vilas Paswan, and Tejaswhi Yadav, S/o Lalu Prasad Yadav. Tejashwi Yadav has come out in flying colors. Chirag Paswan's party won just one seat in Matihani and that too with a wafer-thin margin of 333 votes. Similarly, this election in Bihar has thrown one more surprise. Left parties together have won 16 seats, just short of Congress tally, with CPI-ML winning 63% of seats it contested (more than BJP, though on a smaller base), indicating that Left is slowly encroaching into the voter's mind after a long time.
The results of the Bihar Elections can mean a couple of things: BJP can play a dominant player in Bihar governance which can put off Nitish, given the knowledge of his bloated ego. However, given the assurance that Modi and Amit Shah had given before and after the elections, this is unlikely to happen at the central level. However, at the state level, there can be a lot of push and pulls that Nitish has to cope up with. This could be in terms of BJP having a say in portfolios and administration, smaller parties like HAM and VIP making unusual demands due to wafer-thin margin, as they know the government survives because of them. Having seen how BJP has handled these smaller parties in Goa and some North-Eastern states, this seems unlikely though. There is also a possibility of Nitish being made to make a graceful exit around mid-term and he would be given some more respectful position to facilitate the transition of power from JDU to BJP. Digvijay has made an announcement pleading with Nitish to ally with RJD after dumping BJP. This is, at best posturing, that is unlikely to happen, given Nitish experience with RJD and Tejashwi as Deputy CM in 2015-17. Tejashwi was known to behave most irresponsible, skipping important meetings and with lots of complaints about corruption coming from many places where RJD was holding. Thus, this posturing of Digvijay will find no takers. Finally, this result can be a test of Nitish statesmanship and his image as Sushasanbabu.
By: Samritha Ramanathan
(The views expressed are the author's own. Cover image credits: PTI)