Know the arithmetic of the Bihar Assembly Election 2020
The results of the 2020 Bihar assembly elections, counting for which began on Tuesday morning, were declared on Wednesday morning. In a very close contest, NDA (National Democratic Alliance) which was in the lead since afternoon, emerged as the winner, no matter how slim, with BJP winning 74, JD-U winning 43, and HAM and VIP getting 4 seats each. A total of 125 seats for NDA, just three more than the majority mark.
Vote share and other important numbers
The Mahagathbandhan, comprising RJD, Congress, and left parties- CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML) secured 110 seats, 15 less than the NDA. RJD emerged as the single-largest party as they won 75 seats, one more than BJP. Congress won 19, CPI (ML) won 12 and CPI and CPI(M) won 2 each. Chirag Paswan’s LJP could manage to win only one seat. The vote share of major parties are as follows: BJP- 19.5 per cent, JDU – 15.4 per cent, RJD – 23.1 per cent, Congress – 9.5 per cent, LJP- 5.66 per cent.
The Grand Alliance, led by the RJD and its young leader Tejashwi Yadav had been hoping that the exit polls are proven true and chief minister Nitish Kumar gets unseated after 15 years of rule, but that did not happen. The Mahagathbandhan comprises of the RJD, Congress and Left parties, and most exit polls had given the alliance a clear edge over the Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (United) coalition.
The vote share of National Democratic Alliance is the lowest for the winning alliance in Bihar since the assembly elections in 2010, and only slightly higher than 36.1 per cent vote share of the NDA in the 2005 October elections. The vote share of parties outside the NDA and Mahagathbandhan increased to 25.6 per cent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points. However, they won only 3.3 per cent of the seats. This means that non-NDA and non-Mahagathbandhan parties have acted largely as spoilers in these elections.
There are 243 assembly seats in Bihar, for which as many as 3,558 candidates were in the fray, including 370 women candidate and one transgender candidate. The voter turnout of all the three phases is 57.05 per cent, little higher than 2015. In 2015, the voter turnout was 56.66 per cent.
Ahead of the election, the exit polls suggested that RJD can come back to power in Bihar. During the first two hours of trends on the result day, Mahagathbandhan was even leading but as counting proceeded NDA got better off Mahagathbandhan. While the counting was going on, Rashtriya Janata Dal alleged that returning officers are in the pressure of the ruling alliance and had not been fair in the declaring the results. The Election Commission, however, refused the allegations and said that ECI has never worked under anybody’s pressure and the counting machinery is working sincerely.
After the win, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his remarks said that the people of Bihar have given decisive decision for development.
NDA performed better in the second and third phase
When we looked at the phase-wise election results, it suggested that NDA gained massive momentum in the second and third phase. The Mahagathbandhan won 67.6 per cent of the 71 seats in the first phase. It decreased to 44.7 per cent in the second and 26.9 per cent in the third phase. The strike rate of NDA kept getting better as the election progressed. The strike rate was 29.6 per cent in the first phase, which improved to 54.3 per cent in the second and 66.7 per cent in the third. Clearly, the pattern suggests that silent counter-polarisation worked for NDA. Their strategy of attacking the RJD by evoking the memories of “jungle-raj”, a term used for the bad-governance of RJD in their 15 years seems to have worked. The increased votes of NDA in the latter half of the election can be credited to the fact that RJD was gaining momentum in the election. The voting patterns also suggest that the votes of women could have been a decisive factor in the role of NDA’s victory.
When the elections were announced for Bihar, there were reports and debates that opposition is weak in Bihar and NDA would sweep the election. But as the election campaign gained momentum, the political-ambience of Bihar started changing. It was Tejashwi Yadav who changed the game after he announced that the will sanction 10 lakh jobs for the people of Bihar in their first cabinet meeting.
Although, the promise was not practical as it would have practically bankrupted the state which struggles to meet even its basic minimum needs. But the extravagant promise turned out to be an ultra-seductive proposition in a state where coronavirus lockdown has worsened the rampant employment.
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This election was not just about identity but also about ideology
There is an established way of analyzing Bihar elections by using the binary of social identity against Hindutva. The forces of Mandal, a term used for parties who have a strong base in the OBCs such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal has always depended on the votes of Muslims and OBCs. The saffron party has tried to build a rainbow Hindu coalition to counter this strategy. For BJP, Janata Dal-United has been an important ally in Bihar in building a disparate Hindu coalition against the massive Yadav-Muslim support base of RJD. Both the Left and Congress had to move into the political alignment of Bihar.
The 2020 election of Bihar suggests a churning on both the ideology and the identity fronts. The fact that BJP has won more seats than the JDU, which was the senior partner in the previous government, shows that the votaries of Hindutva want BJP to overpower JDU in the state, becoming the senior-partner. Almost a mirror image of this phenomenon can be seen in the Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM impressive performance in the Seemanchal area. They won 5 seats in the election. It shows that a section of Muslim voters have given up on voting for RJD and are willing to do choose a party which champions their identity, even at the cost of bringing BJP into power. In the five seats where AIMIM won, Mahagathbandhan candidates were in the third position in 4 seats, while NDA was on second.
Left parties, who have a better strike rate than their allies- Congress and RJD showed that merely adopting a centrist plank and evoking identity might not be enough to counter the political appeal of BJP in today’s world.
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