BIHAR RESULTS .. Nitish Kumar set to return as CM again; BJP-JDU alliance trounces Grand Alliance; Poor Cong show


KS Shankar / IHN-NN

PATNA/ NEW DELHI: Defying the exit polls and surmounting anti-incumbency, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), comprising the BJP and the Janata Dal(United) was elected back to power in Bihar early on Thursday, it winning 125 seats and securing an absolute majority in the 243-member House. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is set to form the new ministry after Diwali, as per present indications.

Notably, the Rashtriya Janata Dal emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats and the Grand Alliance or Mahagatbandhan led by it clinched 110 seats. The RJD-led alliance is languishing in the Opposition for most of the past 15 years, when JDU leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar reigned supreme in the state since 2005.

The mandate paves the way for a fourth successive term in office for Kumar, though his party’s seat strength in the assembly reduced to 47 from 71 in the last assembly. The BJP emerged as the senior partner in the Alliance with 74 seats, one less than what the RJD got.

The RJD, whose campaign Tejashwi Yadav, the younger son and heir to party supremo Lalu Prasad helmed, seemed to be heading for power as the counting of votes started on Tuesday morning, but lost out to the NDA as counting progressed. The counting dragged on for over 16 hours.

Despite the slump in numbers, Nitish Kumar, who was declared the NDA’s CM nominee by the BJP top brass including PM Modi and party chief JP Nadda, is chastened, though.  While his party got fewer number of seats this time, much of Kumar’s plight can be blamed on the damage Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) inflicted on his JD(U). Down in the dumps with just one MLA, the party spoiled the JD(U)’s chances in at least 30 seats.

Chirag Paswan’s leadership of the family outfit, LJP, proved to be unimpressive to the voters. LJP had fielded 137 candidates, primarily in opposition to JD (U) after it decided to quit the NDA in October, days before the party’s founder Ram Vilas Paswan died in a private hospital on October 8 due to heart complications, 

As many as 25 BJP rebel leaders had joined the LJP after being denied party ticket. In the lone seat that the LJP win, its candidate Raj Kumar Singh defeated JD (U)’s Narendra Kumar Singh by a slim margin of 353 votes. 

Though the party got just one seat, it managed to slice through a crucial chunk of the NDA vote by impacting nearly 29 of the 58 constituencies that the JD(U) was trailing on. In most of these assembly constituencies, the LJP managed to secure a nearly 10 per cent vote share, dealing a decisive blow to its erstwhile ally. However, it was a pyrrhic achievement as it also exposed his claim for parity with JD (U) as hollow. 

Congress, which had 70 seats from the RJD in exchange for its acquiescence of Lalu Prasad’s insistence to project Tejashwi as Chief Ministerial candidate, fared poorly with just 19 seats, proving a drain on RJD. In contrast, RJD’s other allies did very well. The CPI (M-L) Liberation notched up 12 seats and the

CPI and the CPM got two seats each. It is not clear whether the CPIML-L will participate in the new ministry.

The JD (U)’s strike rate (seats won in proportion to the seats contested) was just over 35 per cent while the BJP’s strike rate was close to 70 per cent. Nitish Kumar, will, however, have to reconcile with the BJP as a senior partner, and is suspicious that the BJP did not do enough to stop the LJP from eating into his vote banks. 

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), led by Asaduddin Owaisi, appears to have found a foothold in Bihar. The AIMIM won five seats — Baisi and Amnour in Purnia district, Bahadurganj and Kochadhaman in Kishanganj, and Jokihat in Araria district — a performance that meant the party must shed its “vote thief” image or spoilsport card, and emerge as a party with a not-very insignificant presence on the next assembly.

All five seats have a high Muslim population ranging between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the electorate. The party did not win a single seat in the 2015 elections, but grabbed one seat (Kishanganj) in a bypoll last year. Its partner in the Grand Secular Democratic Front (GDSP), the Bahujan Samaj Party, secured one seat.

The BSP had failed to open its account in 2015, when its candidates forfeited their deposits on 225 of the 228 seats they contested. Other members of the GDSP, former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and the Janwadi Party Socialist (JPS), did not feature on the leaderboard.

What is impressive is the AIMIM’s strike rate, having contested just 24 seats for its five wins, while the RLSP contested 104 seats and the BSP 80. AIMIM had got 1.25 per cent of the votes.

Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) of Bollywood set designer Mukesh Sahani and Hindustan Awam Morcha belonging to former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, two last entrants into the NDA fold, lent a helping hand to the combinem bagging four seats each. 

HAM’s Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit leader, who became the chief minister with Nitish Kumar’s blessings, but soon fell out and returned to the NDA after he failed in negotitions with the RJD, won his traditional Imamganj seat, defeating his nearest Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) rival Uday Narayan Chaudhary. Manjhi defeated RJD’s Uday Narayan Chaudhary by a margin of 16,034 votes.

This is the second consecutive win of Manjhi from the Imamganj (reserved SC) seat in Gaya district. The Vikassheel Insaan Party leader Mukesh Sahani also walked out of the RJD-led camp to return to NDA, and won four seats. Neither may have a great strike rate but their tallies are crucial for NDA in the light of JD (U)’s under performance. 

Bollywood actor Shatrughan Sinha suffered a setback as his actor son Luv Sinha was convincingly defeated by Nitin Nabin of BJP in Bankipur by 23,626 votes.

Sinha contested from Bankipur assembly seat, which is a part of the Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency that elected his father twice to parliament when he was in the BJP.  Bankipur is seen to be a BJP stronghold, as is Patna Sahib. As Congress candidate Luv managed 44,032 votes, which is about 31.3 per cent of the total votes.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav won his Raghopur seat by a margin of over 38,000 votes. Lalu Yadav’s elder son Tej Pratap defeated his closest rival Raj Kumar Rai of Janat Dal-United by a margin of 21,139 votes. Tej Pratap earlier held the Mahua Assembly seat. He decided to change his seat after his estranged wife Aishwarya Rai challenged him for a direct contest. Aishwarya did not contest the elections.

After RJD won the 2015 Bihar Assembly election, in alliance with the JDU, Tej Pratap had been appointed as the health minister in the Nitish Kumar government. He later also held the environment portfolio. He lost his cabinet birth when the JDU parted ways with Mahagathbandhan to form the government with the BJP in 2017.

Plurals Party Chief Pushpam Priya Choudhary suffered a blow as she lost in both seats she contested. The London-returned new entrant faced defeat in Bankipur and Bisfi seats much to the cheer of the BJP candidates who won both the spots. In Bankipur, Pushpam Priya, who had declared herself as the chief ministerial face of her party, scored 5,189 votes, a mere 3.69 per cent of the total votes. Her BJP rival and winning candidate Nitin Nabin secured 83,068 votes, accounting for 59.05 per cent of the total votes.

BJP’s Shreyashi Singh, who won the gold medal in shooting in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and daughter of former Union Minister late Digvijaya Singh.was defeated by Vijay Prakash of the RJD by a margin of 41,049 from Jamui seat.

But there is more than a degree of bitterness at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)‘s refusal to keep the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in check — if LJP had not contested separately, the Janata Dal (United) would have fared much better — and the general narrative during the campaign, which pointed to anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar and the possible emergence of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)‘s Tejashwi Yadav.

Indeed, these somewhat opposing emotions, in many ways, encapsulate the paradox Nitish Kumar’s political trajectory in recent decades. He is an administrator who transformed Bihar in his early terms but who began to be perceived as stagnant in his recent years. –IHN-NN


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s