Nitish sails through despite a marginal increase in vote share

The facts tell their own tale:

- The massive victory was achieved by garnering four-fifths of the seats — 206 in the 243-member Assembly — by the Nitish Kumar-led Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (United) combine despite the ruling alliance having polled only 38.8 per cent of the votes.
It is a comparatively small share of vote percentage in an electoral sweep as  most landslides in the past have recorded over 50 per cent of vote share.

- The ruling combine won an unprecedented 85 per cent of all the seats contested.

- The BJP had an excellent ‘strike rate’, winning over 90 per cent of seats it contested compared to 82 per cent won by its senior partner, the JD(U).

- Opposition parties and independents managed to win only 37 of the 243 seats

-Muslims voted for the ruling combine thus deserting their one-time messiah, Lalu Prasad Yadav

- Turn-out of women voters was more than the male voters

The landslide victory of the ruling combine — the biggest-ever sweep in Indian electoral history, barring by the Left parties and the 1984 Lok Sabha sweep by the Congress — has been achieved thanks to a divided opposition too.

However, the election results show even if the JD(U)-BJP had faced a united Opposition, the latter would not have made it, arithmetically speaking: as against the 38.8 per cent vote share achieved by the alliance, the combined opposition’s vote share stands at around 36.

The JD(U)-BJP’s combined vote share achieved in this election was only 2.7 per cent more than what it got in the October 2005 polls. The Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party alliance won 25 seats for 25.59 per cent vote share while the Congress polled only 8.38 per cent of votes in winning four seats.

But then, Lalu can still draw some comfort. All is still not lost for him. He may have returned the worst-ever performance since forming the party in 1997 — winning only 22 seats, 32 less than the last tally — but has polled over 25 per cent (in alliance with LJP) votes. Lalu can rightly claim he may be down but still not out.

As for the strike rate, the BJP managed a notch better than the JD(U) making full use of not just the good governance plank but also taking care in distribution of seats. It won 91 of the 102 seats contested (vote percentage 16.46) compared to JD(U)’s 115 out of 141 (22.61 per cent votes). The BJP gained 37 seats compared to JD(U)’s 27.
Interestingly, the BJP could win more seats despite increasing its vote share by a mere 0.8 per cent compared to the last Assembly polls. The increase in JD(U)’s vote share was just 2.1 per cent compared to the 2005 polls.

Smart seat distribution

According to one analysis, the strike rate has been impressive because of the smart seat distribution that the two parties planned. In 30 major towns that the two parties contested, the BJP won 23 while the JD(U) won seven. The opposition could not win any of these urban seats. The good governance and especially, the plank of improved law and order, played a key role in these urban seats. The winning alliance’s campaign harped on the ‘dark days’ of Lalu’s chief ministership  when kidnappings and extortions were a daily occurrence.

In another interesting outcome, the ruling coalition’s performance has been impressive in Muslim dominated areas of Bihar. Muslims account for 18 per cent of Bihar electorate and naturally are a crucial factor for any party. Although only 19 Muslim candidates won — it should have been much more for an 18 per cent population — including one from BJP, it is interesting to note that the BJP-JD(U) combine won 40 of 51 Assembly segments in seven minority concentration districts — Kishanganj, Katihar, Araria, Darbhanga, West Champaran, Sitamarhi and Purnea. The BJP alone won 27 seats in these districts while 13 went to the JD(U). Along with good governance, Nitish Kumar had assiduously wooed the Muslims, especially the most backward Pasmanda group, through various measures such as appointment of Urdu teachers, raising boundaries of graveyards, vocational courses, etc. Lalu, who tried to revive his MY (Muslim-Yadav) theory, was a distant second in these areas where even two independents won. Of the total 19 successful Muslim candidates, seven are from the JD(U), six RJD, three Congress, two LJP and one from the BJP.

For the Congress, it would be a long haul to resurrect the party after the battering it has suffered in the current polls.

The decision of the party to go it alone in Bihar and contest all 243 seats on its own made it even better for the ruling alliance. In 2005, Congress contested only 50 seats when it fought the elections in an alliance with RJD-LJP.

The split has also hurt the Congress, which won only four seats compared to nine in the last elections. It can take no consolation that its vote share has only come down from 8.4 per cent to 6.

In the last elections, the Congress had a tie-up with Lalu, hence its moderate showing — it had then contested 51 seats winning nine of them. This time, it was a solo show for the party but it contested all the 243 seats. That it could win only four seats will mean that Congress has a long way to go before it recoups.

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