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Bihar election: How Nitish Kumar won despite losing seats

Nitish got merely 44 seats out of 115 constituencies he contested
Last Updated 11 November 2020, 05:00 IST

Bihar has never witnessed such a nail-biting finish in any of the electoral battles since Independence. Neither in the undivided Bihar, nor after the State was bifurcated in November 2000 to create Jharkhand. And never ever has Nitish Kumar looked so weakened, yet so desperate to retain power.

But the 2020 Bihar Assembly election, the first poll held amid Covid-19 pandemic, will go into the annals of history for three notable reasons:

This is the first election since 2005 where the saffron camp has won more seats than the JD (U).

Secondly, Nitish’s own political graph has come down drastically, from the four-fifth majority in 2010 to three-fourth majority in 2015 to a wafer-thin majority in 2020.

Thirdly, this was the first Assembly election held in the absence of maverick Lalu Prasad, whose son Tejashwi Yadav, fighting the combined might of Nitish Kumar as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave the NDA a run for its money.

Till two months ago, it looked like a one-sided poll with the NDA all set to make a clean sweep. But Tejashwi dumped ‘political dead woods’ like Jitan Ram Manjhi, Upendra Kushwaha and Mukesh Sahni and stitched a new alliance with three Left parties, besides retaining the old ally Congress. It paid rich electoral dividends with the new Mahagatbandhan inching closer to the magic figure but just short of majority.

It was not a mean achievement, given the fact that the opponents – the NDA - had two more alliance partners – HAM and the VIP, besides the two ruling allies the JD (U) and the BJP.

In theory, the NDA looked like a formidable alliance. But in real terms, Nitish was fighting with his back to the wall. He was actually fighting a three-pronged battle.

On the one hand, he was openly challenged by his former deputy, the 31-year-old Tejashwi. On the other hand, his candidates were fighting an electoral battle against the former NDA ally - the LJP, whose chief Chirag Paswan had put up candidates against all the JD (U) candidates.

Thirdly, Nitish was facing a huge anti-incumbency factor in a State where crime and corruption took away the sheen of Nitish’s good governance. The migrants’ anger and unemployment, following Covid-19, only added to Nitish’s discomfiture.

“But we had our own quota of silent supporters. Women, who got empowerment during Nitish regime, stood by us. The prohibition policy too made women root for Nitish. Besides, the Extremely Backward Class (EBCs), which constitute around 20 per cent of the electorate, stood by Nitish like a rock,” explained Bihar JD (U) president and Rajya Sabha member Bashishtha Narayan Singh.

Nitish, however, got merely 44 seats out of 115 constituencies he contested. This figure was quite low compared to JD (U)’s fgure of 70 in 2015. However, it was the BJP which attained the maximum gain and wrested 74 seats.

The RJD too won 74 seats. But the Mahagatbandhan got 34 per cent of votes. While the NDA bagged 35 per cent votes. And this difference of one per cent made all the difference.

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(Published 10 November 2020, 17:32 IST)

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