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  • Raghav Sand

Bihar Mandate 2020: Modi’s Fire Dims Lantern

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) brushed aside anti-incumbency and retained power in Bihar. This was the first full-fledged state election during the pandemic. Few other states witnessed by-elections but their campaign and mood were muted in comparison to Bihar state assembly elections. The turnout in Bihar elections was just under 60 per-cent – a jump over past elections. All the political parties put in serious effort to sway the voter. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the top two parties with 75 and 74 seats, respectively. Janta Dal United lost both seats and vote share in comparison to last assembly election, but its loss was recovered by BJP which gained seats.

Table: The Know-How Journal; Source: ECI Website

Loss of Face for Dynasty

The biggest losers in the election were Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) and Indian National Congress (INC). LJP lost its voter base and it has dented the reputation of its scion. It was successful in splitting votes in more than three dozen seats by fielding candidates against JDU. INC happily accepts the supporting role in state assembly election and this is shame for the grand old party. To concede ground in the Hindi heartland before elections shows lack of confidence and absence of supporter base.

Both LJP and INC gave lame excuses for their disastrous display after announcement of results. INC put forth the argument that it got difficult seats in Maha Gathbandhan, a pre-poll alliance with RJD, and did fairly well. LJP, on the other hand was happy to take away votes from JDU, and this completely overturned the arithmetic of Nitish Kumar’s party.

Party-wise vote share: Bihar Assembly 2020 (Source: ECI)

7.06 lakh people or 1.7% of the voters opted for NOTA (None of the Above) option. RJD garnered maximum vote share, while INC clocked single digit vote share. Communist outfits gained a lot of ground and bagged 16 seats in aggregate.

Strike Rate: Bihar 2020 Elections

BJP and RJD’s Game Plan

BJP and RJD had a single-minded approach to the election campaign. The former banked upon and milked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity. Modi made sure he reminded everyone of the central government welfare schemes, and he was successful in his endeavours. Nitish Kumar seldom found mention in Modi’s public and virtual rallies. On the other hand, RJD based its campaign entirely on the shoulder of Tejashwi Yadav. The vote share and seat tally of RJD has made Tejashwi a noteworthy regional leader.

Political commentators observed that RJD did not use the recall factor of its founder, Lalu Prasad Yadav in posters or public meetings. This was a conscious effort to get rid of negative image and chart a new course. RJD and Tejashwi should not get disheartened by the results, but they should realise that BJP now considers it as the primary adversary.

Gangs of Bakhtiarpur

Nitish Kumar was born in Bakhtiarpur, Bihar. He has ploughed his way through in electoral politics and has proven to be an able administrator. Prior to the close of campaigning for the third phase of Bihar state assembly election, he announced that this will be his last election. JDU doesn’t have visible leaders beyond Nitish and his party is more like a gang with one leader at the top. This centralization of power is good in the short run, but parties without strong internal democracy are destined for disintegration once its tallest leader calls it a day.

Getting lesser seats than BJP and holding on to the Chief Minister portfolio would mean making further concessions and compromise at both the state and central level. Nothing speaks louder than public support in politics and the writing is on the wall for Nitish Kumar.

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