For the year 2020, assembly elections in India can be broadly characterised into two categories – Pre-Covid and Post-Covid. Note that ‘Post-Covid’ is not to surmise that Coronavirus is vanished from India, but one can say that the initial scare is passed away, and we are on the path of recovery.
Anyway, coming back to the elections. Pre-Covid time has seen assembly elections in Delhi , where for the second consecutive time, AAP was able to garner a monumental positive response from the public. On the back of its developmental work done in Delhi, AAP secured 63 of the 70 seats. One might also give credit to the anti-BJP narrative due to the passage of CAA, which ultimately resulted in a riot in the national capital. Not so long after that, India had to impose a nationwide lockdown to curtail the spread of Coronavirus which put a pause to the economic activity, and obviously rendered all the elections related activity to a stop.
After more than six months now, in the ‘Post-Covid’ period, it is the time for Bihar assembly elections to take place. Considering the status of politics in Bihar which is giving birth to an intriguing equation, it is safe to assume that Bihar elections will pave the way for the future of politics (and elections) at least till the next Parliamentary elections due in 2024.
On one hand, we have a Chief Minister in Nitish Kumar who has the reign since the last 15 years, but faces heavy anti-incumbency. He has a major political ally, BJP, which, some might say that, is facing criticism due to the handling of the Covid-19 crisis which has caused economic distress and further raised unemployment. On the other hand, we have a younger competitor in Tejashvi Yadav who is looking to put his party, RJD, back to power in the state. He is supported by the INC, which has lost its own ground in the state, and is trying to stay relevant by supporting RJD. There is also a third emerging player in Chirag Paswan, who is taking the LJP baton forward from his late father and a seasoned politician Sh. Ram Vilas Paswan.
The main contest is between NDA (BJP and JDU) and Mahagathbandhan (RJD and INC), but we cannot under estimate the standalone LJP which can play a party spoiler.
According to the survey done by Drishtikone Media and Policharcha.com, NDA is expected to surpass the magic number of 122. BJP will emerge as the single largest party with around 85 seats and JDU will be able to get around 43 seats. Despite this feat, we might not see Nitish Kumar as the CM of Bihar. The case of Bihar will be in the similar lines to that of Maharashtra. BJP was the single largest party in Maharashtra, and on the back of that it persisted with the claim that a BJP candidate must be the CM of Maharashtra. BJP did not succumb to the political pressure made by Shiv Sena, and it resulted in the break-up of the two parties. Similarly, in Bihar also, no matter what it says before the result, BJP is likely to support its claim on the post of CM, not giving the chance to JDU’s Nitish Kumar.
Moreover, after the 2015 Bihar elections, which were fought together by RJD and JDU against BJP and LJP, BJP was not in the position to play a deciding role or even bargain for the post of CM. This time though, it is supposed to be the single largest party and that too with the support of the current CM, therefore it holds some leverage, and will not give the CM seat to JDU as a charity.
There is also major anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar. Women voters are likely to not vote for JDU due to the fact that state-wide liquor ban did not reap the expected results. Moreover, the plight of the Pachpaniya community is there to be focused upon. There are about 55 castes living in Bihar which are considered to be the most backward. They assert that in the last 3.5 years of RJD’s rule, their situation has gone from bad to worse. The Bihar Government did not keep its promise to make these people socially empowered.
Nonetheless, it will be difficult to keep a seasoned politician like Nitish Kumar out of the political mainframe of Bihar, and because of this BJP might offer him a position at the Centre. Or perhaps Nitish Kumar can be next Presidential candidate as the presidential elections are due in 2022. What are your thoughts about it? Be sure to comment your views.
Another point to consider is the fact how LJP has fielded its candidates in Bihar. Out of the total 134 nominations filed by LJP, only six are contesting against BJP directly. This raises some questions regarding the intent of Chirag Paswan to go solo for the assembly elections this year. On paper, BJP and LJP are not contesting together, but if you consider that they are fighting against each other at just 6 constituencies out of the 243, you can say that there is something more than what meets the eye. LJP is likely to give more bargaining power to BJP as LJP is fighting against JDU, RJD, and INC on 128 seats. This will strengthen position of BJP and weaken that of other parties.
Muslim Yadav (MY) votes will also be one of the deciding factor. As always, caste configuration will play a substantial role to determine the fate of Bihar. Yadav voters will cast their votes in groups and are very likely to go with Tejashwi Yadav. Although, this time around Muslim voters have a task of their own. One can assume that they will vote against BJP, but they have several other options to choose from. This makes things better for BJP. Muslims can go with Mahagathbandhan (MGB), or even go with JDU due the secular image of Nitish Kumar. JDU had nominated 11 Muslim candidates who are expected to cut the vote share other parties. AIMIM is also in the scene in these assembly elections. They have nominated candidates to fight for 24 seats, out of which on six seats they have placed a candidate against BJP. Therefore, Muslim voters will have another option to vote for, which again makes BJP’s prospects better.
BJP is at a better position than it was in 2015. Considering the fact that, it was non-BJP ruled states of Delhi, Mumbai, and Punjab which had sent the migrant workers, most of whom belonged to Bihar, back their states. It was Yogi and Modi’s Governments which helped them by giving them free food on the way, and then providing them with free ration for 7 months once they had reached their state Bihar. Therefore, contradicting the popular opinion that is upheld by the media that people will not vote for BJP due to economic crisis and unemployment, a substantial number of the rural population is going to favour BJP, partly because of Modi’s image also.
As per our survey, NDA is likely to secure 130 to 145 seats, out of which BJP will get 84 to 95 seats and JDU will get 40 to 47 seats. Therefore, BJP is gaining seats this year because of the anti-incumbency against Nitish, and Modi’s image. NDA’s vote share might increase by almost 2 percent from 41.2% in 2015 to 43% in 2020. It is interesting to note that, in the 2015 election, BJP and JDU did not contest together as a group, still BJP got the majority vote share of 24.4 percent, but could not become the single largest party.
Mahagathbandhan (MGB) is expected to win on nearly 85 to 95 assembly seats with the majority of share going to RJD at 60 to 70 seats. In terms of votes, MGB’s share is likely to increase from 25 percent in 2015 to 36 percent in 2020, but the number of seats won by them will reduce due the way LJP has fielded its candidates.
42% of the people of Bihar wants Nitish Kumar as their CM. 31%, 6%, and 3% of people see Tejashwi Yadav, Chirag Paswan, and Sushil Kumar Modi respectively as the CM of the state.
LJP will move up from its tally of 2 seats in 2015 to around 5-7 seats this year, and can even touch double digits, depending on the performances of other parties.
What are your views on Bihar election? Be sure to let us know in the comments.