The fine-print of the Bihar election results, however, has layers of stories hidden beneath it.
The National Democratic Alliance just breached the majority mark in the Bihar elections that proved to be a cliff-hanger with slow counting that went on till late at night.
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The NDA has won 125 seats, just three above the majority mark in the 243-member assembly. Within the alliance, the BJP has emerged the clear winner, bagging 74 seats, while the JD (U) is down but not out with 43 seats. The Vikassheel Insaan Party and Hindustan Awam Morcha (Secular) have won four seats each, taking the NDA past the majority mark.
The fine-print of the results, however, has layers of stories hidden beneath it.
The BJP’s rise
The key takeaway of Bihar 2020 is the rise of the BJP as the prime political party in the state, perhaps aided to an extent by the decision of the Lok Janshakti Party to field candidates against the Janata Dal (United) but not the BJP.
The BJP has achieved the best strike rate among all parties, winning 74 of the 110 seats it contested. Its overall vote share is 19.46-percent, which means it secured an average of about 43-percent votes on the 110 seats it contested, which is higher than its average vote share of 37-percent per seat in 2015. One reason for the rise is that it is in alliance with the JD (U) this time, which perhaps led to EBC vote transfers to the party with a core upper caste base.
The LJP factor
The LJP ended up winning just one seat but walked away with five to 30 percent votes on many seats. There are about 31 seats, most with JD (U) candidates, where the NDA’s margin of loss is clearly below the vote percentage of the LJP. It is reasonable to assume that quite a few of these would have come to the NDA if the LJP had been part of it, pushing it to a much larger majority. This would also have given the JD (U) a much more respectable tally, depriving the BJP of the role of a clearly dominant partner in the NDA.
The JD (U)’s overall vote share on the 111 seats it contested is 15.39-percent, which adds up to an average vote share of 33-34 percent per seat. The difference of close to 10-percentage points in the seat-wise vote share of the BJP and JD (U) is likely to be a result of the LJP putting up candidates—several of them upper caste—and weaning away Dusadhs and a section of the upper castes from the JD (U).
The spoilers for the Mahagathbandhan
Bihar 2020 seems to have been an election of spoilers. The winner has been the BJP but the losers have been many.
Tejashwi Yadav succeeded in keeping the RJD afloat but the Mahagathbandhan fell short of a majority with 110 seats. The RJD, which contested on 144 seats, could scrape past the BJP as the single largest party with 75 seats.
At 23.11-percent, the RJD has the largest overall vote share in the state, but its vote share per seat falls down to 39-percent, which is lower than the average 44-percent votes it secured in 2015. The reason for the fall is perhaps the absence of Nitish Kumar, with whom the RJD was in alliance the last time.
The fact that the JD (U) survived with moderate losses despite the LJP trying to damage it is perhaps attributable to Kumar’s ability to retain much of his EBC and Mahadalit vote bank, which he had carved out over the years with a clutch of policies. This has made Kumar a survivor in caste-based Bihar politics despite his own caste, the Kurmis, being numerically small.
The RJD has not been able to make inroads into this vote base of the JD (U), staying at its core a Muslim-Yadav party. While the 14-percent Yadavs and close to 17-percent Muslims are a formidable vote chunk, Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM succeeded in breaching the Muslim vote bank of the RJD on some seats in the Seemanchal region.
The Owaisi factor
Owaisi fielded candidates on 20 seats in this region and did just enough damage to the Mahagathbandhan to ensure a simple majority for the NDA.
The overall vote secured by the AIMIM is 1.24-percent, but this amounts to a significant 15-percent per seat on the 20 seats the party fielded candidates on. However, it is likely that the average vote seems significant because of the five seats the AIMIM ended up winning, where there seems to have been a massive Muslim shift from the Mahagathbandhan to the AIMIM.
Another reason for the Mahagathbandhan suffering losses in Seemanchal may be a counter-polarisation of Hindu votes towards the NDA.
The Congress underperforms
The Rashtriya Janata Dal has definitely posted a good performance but been let down by the Congress. The party was given a mammoth 70 seats in the state with no vote bank at its disposal, though Congress spokespersons insisted on television through the counting that most of these seats were NDA strongholds. Be that as it may, the Congress could win just 19 of these seats and secure 9.48-percent votes in the state, accounting for a little below 33-percent votes per seat. On about 14 seats, the Congress lost by more than 15-percentage points, securing just 7-percent of the votes cast in the Paroo constituency.
In contrast, the three left parties, the CPI (ML), the CPI and the CPI (M), ended up with a much better strike rate for the Mahagathbandhan, winning 16 of the 29 seats they contested. The CPI (ML) (Liberation) won 12 seats.
The Congress, in other words, may have been the Achilles’ heel for the Mahagathbandhan, something that isn’t surprising.
Seen alongside the victories of the BJP in the assembly bypolls in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana, the saffron party seems to be in command of the electoral narrative of India amid a pandemic, severe recession and high unemployment.
—Vikas Pathak, a political journalist for a decade-and-a-half, teaches at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. The views expressed are personal
Read his other columns here
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)
First Published: Nov 11, 2020 11:26 AM IST
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