It's difficult to forcast(e) Bihar results

The big picture: A close fight between NDA and grand alliance

It's difficult to forcast(e) Bihar results

With less than a week before Bihar votes in the first phase of polling on October 12, the crucial election seems to be headed for a straight contest between  the NDA and Nitish-led grand alliance.

Other fringe players like the Samajwadi Party, NCP and Pappu Yadav’s outfit started with a bang, but have failed to make a major impact in an election which the entire country is watching with bated breath.

Notwithstanding the initial hiccups in seat adjustment with its alliance partners, the two camps – NDA and the Mahagatbandhan (as the grand alliance is commonly known here) have reached an amicable seat-sharing pact. As a consequence, so tough is the contest between the NDA and the Nitish Kumar-led alliance, which has the Congress, RJD and the JD (U) as partners, that it would be difficult for any political pundit to forecast which group would emerge victorious.

Touted to be mother of all battles, it is all the more crucial for Nitish to win this ‘war’ as any defeat at this juncture would give his bête noire Narendra Modi another reason to berate him. The same logic goes for Modi too, who, after losing Delhi Assembly polls so badly earlier this year, would like to salvage his position.

As of now, the Bihar battle is evenly poised, with supporters vertically divided between Modi and Nitish. While Nitish wants to ride on his credo of good governance he had ushered in after taking over the reins in November 2005, Modi’s popularity in rural areas (urban constituencies are already BJP’s forte) has not been diluted as much as his opponents try to make it out. Theoretically, the BJP has a marginal edge over its rival as it has sewed a rainbow coalition which has Paswans, Kushwahas, Mahadalits, besides it core BJP vote base, under one umbrella.

On the other hand, Nitish’s image as Vikas Purush remains undiminished even in remote areas. Reason: He has genuinely put Bihar on the fasttrack of development through new roads, enhanced power connectivity, and, above all, improved law and order. However, there are two common grievances against him: First, why, of all persons, he joined hands with Lalu Prasad, (who still symbolises the lawless state) and secondly, why he did nothing to improve education sector.

Nitish clarifies in his rallies that once he returns to power for the third consecutive time, he would lay stress on improving infrastructure so that better educational institutions could be established. So far as alliance with Lalu is concerned, he told a public gathering that all those who opposed the BJP had to unite or else the votes would have split much like Lok Sabha elections and helped the BJP win.

This is one reason why the BJP is not leaving anything to chance. All its top leaders, including Amit Shah and at least seven Union ministers, are camping in Bihar instead of discharging their responsibilities in New Delhi.

With Muslims, Yadavs and some section of extremely backward class (EBCs) throwing their weight behind Nitish, the upper castes have decided to stand by the NDA which could also bank upon Dalits, Mahadalits and a section of OBCs (excluding Kurmis and to some extent Yadavs). But with leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mohan Bhagwat giving controversial statements on beef and reservation respectively, the poll wind could change its direction any day before the last vote is cast on November 5.
 

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