We're Live Bangla Thursday, March 30, 2023

BJP alliance wins in Bihar, but opposition RJD secures more votes

TOP NEWS-ENG-12-11-2020
Young RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav

Amidst much tension and anticipation, votes in the Bihar election were counted and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharat Janata Party (BJP), managed to clinch the magic number and is now all set to form the government in the State. The magic number in the 243-seat Bihar Vidhan Sabha was 122.

The ruling NDA finally secured 125 seats, the opposition Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) won 110 seats and the others 8.

Interestingly, it was the RJD which had won the highest number of seats. It secured 75 seats while BJP, the biggest party in the winning NDA, won 74 seats. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU) secured 43 seats, bringing it down to the third position. The other two allies of the alliance, VikassheelInsaan Party and Hindustan Awam Party won 4 seats each.

It was clear in the Bihar election that while the NDA alliance might have secured a higher number of seats, the opposition Mahagathbandhan won a bit more of the popular votes. It secured 23.11 per cent of the votes and BJP won 19.46 per cent. BJP’s ally JDU secured 15.39 per cent. The other allies of NDA clinched 2 to 3 per cent of the votes. Mahagathbandhan’s allies, the Congress and the left parties, together won 17 to 18 per cent of the votes respectively.

Political analysts say that if the Congress had shrugged off its ennui and entered the election fray in full swing, it would have been the Mahagathbandhan that would have formed the government today. In the last Vidhan Sabha elections Congress had got 27 seats, but this time only 19.

However, the Congress’ analysis is that the Hyderabad-based Muslim Party Majlis-e-Ittedul Muslimeen (MIM), was a thorn in the flesh for the Congress in the Muslim majority districts of Purnia Katihar, Araria and Kishanganj. Taking over 5 seats, the MIM made victory for Mahagathbandhan impossible in at least 14 Muslim majority constituencies. Congress Lok Sabha leader Adhiranjan Chowdhury claims that the BJP spent millions of rupees on MIM leader Owaisi to weaken the secular forces. 

Even though the Congress failed to rake in the number of seats it had hoped for, the left parties (CPI 2, CPIM 2 and CPIM L, Liberation 12 seats) won a total of 16 seats, indicating that people’s support for a change.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there was a record 57.05 turnout in the Bihar polls, pointing to the importance of this election. There was a neck and neck fight between the ruling and the opposition camps. In many seats the vote difference was marginal. In one seat, the JDU won by just 12 votes. And in 7 seats, it was just 50 votes that made all the difference between winning and losing. In 20 seats the margin had been less than 2000 votes. 

Naturally, this has led to allegations of vote rigging. The election commission, however, has not taken such allegations into consideration.

The people of Bihar have finally emerged from the long standing narrow caste and creed based politics, as is evident from the political strategy of the 31-year-old leader Tejashwi Yadav. After the results were declared, CPIM’s central committee member Sujan Chakrabarty told South Asian Monitor, that people have realized that that the fight to put food on the plate was more important than caste and creed.

Caste and creed had been the mainstay of Bihar’s politics, though Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar had spoken of establishing social justice. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav changed the game this time, bringing forward issues of youth employment, the corona-induced economic slump, anti-peasant laws, the sufferings of the poor and the migrant workers, and corruption. The poor and the youth were particularly drawn to his campaign and that was reflected in the ballot box. 

The absence of incarcerated JRD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav also won sympathy votes for Tejashwi. 

The BJP used the border skirmishes with China to incite nationalistic emotions. It even used promises of free corona vaccines as a bait to lure voters. Finally, it castigated the RJD for its chaotic rule and highlighted good governance and development under Nitish Kumar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself took to campaigning and that yielded results. 

Observers feel that it was BJP’s strategy that led to Nitish’s party getting only 43 seats. In the 2015 Bihar Vidhan Sabha elections, the BJP had won 54 seats and the Janata Dal United that won 71 seats. This time the BJP had planned to become the biggest party in Bihar, intentionally weakening Nitish. And so, the BJP remained silent when Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) left the NDA and put up a candidate against Nitish Kumar’s party. As a result, LJP candidates defeated JDU candidates in 25 to 30 seats though they got only 5.66 per cent of the votes.

The main reason for JDU seats’ dwindling was the anti-establishment sentiment, the government’s abject failure to tackle the floods and also the Nitish government’s negligence of the migrant workers. And so at the end of the polls, Nitish declared that he would no longer contest in elections.

However, despite the differences in votes, the BJP’s central leadership said that Nitish Kumar would be the Chief Minister of Bihar. This is to keep a grip on a turncoat like Nitish. In 2015, Nitish Kumar had come to the helm as part of the RJD alliance. But in that very year, the BJP lured him to their camp to form an NDA government. 

Nitish Kumar is also very much aware that even though he may be sitting in the seat of power for the fourth time, he will only be a figurehead, a puppet of the BJP. The question is, how long will Nitish Kumar bear this humiliation? Another question looms large – how long will the BJP be able to maintain stability in the government if Nitish Kumar decides to pack his bags and return to the Mahagathbandhan?

The BJP has given all credit to Modi for its victory. BJP leaders in Bihar say this is Modi’s victory because the people put their trust in him. 

This election had been a challenge to the BJP and also to the Modi brand. BJP’s power had been curbed to a great extent in the State after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and so it took the elections as an acid test. Alongside Modi, central ministers had jumped into the fray too. 

All in all, the Modi brand has been a success in over 70 by-elections around the country. And so the Modi mantra is back in sway – ‘Modi hai tou mumkin hai’ (If Modi is there, it is possible)