The Bihar nail-biter ended 20 hours after the counting of votes began with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance crossing the halfway mark with 125 seats in the 243-member assembly. Tejashwi Yadav, who put up a spirited fight, led the Mahagathbandhan in bagging 110 seats. Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the people of Bihar for “backing the NDA” and said the alliance would “work for the balanced development of every person, every region” of the state.
In the cliffhanger that lasted till about 4 am on Wednesday, the big winners were the BJP on the ruling side and the Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD on the other side. Nitish Kumar, faced with heavy anti-incumbency and aggressive allies, was fighting with his back to the wall but managed a fourth consecutive term though with much-diminished clout. From being the lead partner in the state, his JD(U) will now be forced to play second fiddle to the BJP.
The saffron party has over the years become the big brother in the state. From 53 in 2015 to 74 this time, the BJP zipped past the JD(U) that has fallen to 43, down 28 from 2015.
The JD(U) performance also took a big blow from Chirag Paswan’s LJP, which broke off from the ruling alliance days before the elections and put up 137 candidates, all against the JD(U). The LJP recorded its worst-ever performance, winning just one seat, but dented the JD(U) chances in at least 75 seats. Political observers say that Paswan was a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’ and delivered on the job assigned to him
In RJD’s first assembly election without the guidance of Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is serving a jail term in Jharkhand following his conviction in a case related to a fodder scam in Bihar, Tejashwi scored major gains for his party becoming the single largest in the state winning 75 of the 144 seats it contested.
Yadav attempted to recast the RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav, moving away from his father’s M-Y pitch and focusing on ‘RJD for all’ and on the everyday economic, development issues. Going by the voter response, his effort has paid off but is still a work in progress.
The Congress managed just 19 seats of the 70 it contested and the Left, a surprise performer, in 11 seats of 29 it fought. The CPI-ML won 12 of 19 it contested. Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM also bagged five seats.
The Sonia Gandhi led party emerged as the weakest link, pulling the Mahagathbandhan down. Had it delivered on at least 50 of the 70 it contested, the poll story would have been different. It fared particularly badly on the seats it was in direct contest with the BJP. A section in the RJD felt that the party should not have been given more than 50 seats.
The results defied all exit polls that had projected a win for the RJD. Analysts feel this was because the pollsters had underestimated the power of Modi magic and the women voters, the most loyal vote bank of Nitish Kumar. According to official data, the state witnessed overall polling of 57.05% while female turnout was recorded as 59.7% as against 54.7% of the male turnout. Out of 38 districts, 23 reported higher voter turnout of women.
Added to this was the personal appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP did well in regions where PM Modi held rallies. He addressed 12 rallies where he touched upon all local issues while hitting out at the Opposition over alleged corruption and dynasty politics.