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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Bihar elections: Grand Alliance blows past Modi-led NDA

With a second defeat this year, the BJP went into a huddle with party chief Amit Shah meeting top leaders in Delhi for an assessment

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) conceded defeat in the Bihar assembly election on Sunday as the Grand Alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar surged ahead in almost thrice the number of constituencies where the BJP and its allies were leading.

At an impromptu interaction with the media at the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) headquarters in Patna, party chief Lalu Prasad and Kumar hugged and shook hands, before Prasad said, “Nitish Kumar, chief minister of Bihar, present and continuing, will take care of Bihar."

“We brothers want to thank everyone for such a big win," Prasad said, vowing to take the campaign against the BJP nationwide. “We will uproot the Modi government," he said.

With a second defeat this year, after the one in Delhi, now a certainty, the BJP went into a huddle with party chief Amit Shah meeting top leaders in Delhi for an assessment.

“We accept the mandate of the people. We will analyse the poll results and the reasons in detail," said BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“This defeat calls for a serious rethink," BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said on Times Now news channel, saying the party accepted the verdict “humbly" and would analyse and introspect seriously on what had gone wrong for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Nitish Kumar and congratulated him on the victory.

According to the Election Commission, the JD(U) won 71 seats, the RJD 80, the Congress 27 and the BJP 53. Of the 243 assembly seats, the Grand Alliance has won 178 seats and the NDA 58.

Counting of votes for the five-phase elections that started on 12 October and ended on 5 November began amid tight security at 8am. The Grand Alliance forged into the lead and kept building on it, reversing early trends that showed the NDA ahead.

“What a comeback for JDU+. In 1 hour their leads have overtaken that of ours. It looks a photo finish. What an election," tweeted Madhav.

Most exit polls for the Bihar assembly elections had given the Grand Alliance the edge, although the pollster that has consistently got things right in recent elections predicted a clear and decisive win for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

While the India Today-Cicero poll predicted a range of 111-127 seats for the NDA and 110-124 seats for the Grand Alliance, Today’s Chanakya-News 24, which has acquired a reputation for being right, gave 155 (+/-11) to the NDA and 83 (+/-9) to the Grand Alliance. CNX-NewsX gave 90-100 to the NDA and 130-140 to the Grand Alliance. ABP News-Nielsen gave 108 to the NDA and 130 to the Grand Alliance. News Nation gave 112-116 to the NDA and 123-127 to the Grand Alliance. And India TV-CVoter predicted 101-121 for the NDA and 112-132 for the Grand Alliance.

Still, the overlapping ranges put forth by the pollsters for the two alliances had suggested that it could be a close thing—one way or the other.

For the NDA, the defeat means a severe political reverse and a loss of the momentum with which it swept to power in the 2014 parliamentary elections. For the Grand Alliance, victory means an endorsement of Kumar’s brand of developmental politics and also proves that an united opposition can, under the right circumstances, take on the BJP-led NDA.

In an intense and vitriolic campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed 25 meetings in the state. Kumar addressed over 200.

Modi, who led the alliance’s campaign, and BJP president Amit Shah, who camped in Bihar for months, wove together a caste alliance with the help of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM).

The election marked the first time in at least two decades that the BJP and Kumar’s JD(U) contested against each other in the assembly polls.

The two parties had parted ways in June 2013 when the BJP made Modi chief of its parliamentary election campaign committee. The two parties have since been at loggerheads in Bihar.

Both the Grand Alliance and the NDA spoke of development but also worked hard to get their caste arithmetic right in a state that typically votes along caste lines.

The win for the Grand Alliance will also see the return of Prasad, whose the RJD won just 22 of the total 243 seats in the 2010 assembly elections in the state.

After the massive debacle in the general elections, when the Modi-led NDA won 31 of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar, Prasad and Kumar decided they were better off together, although in the eyes of many Bihar residents, Kumar, in his term as chief minister, was everything Prasad wasn’t.

Prasad himself is not contesting the state polls after his conviction in a corruption case but his two sons, Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav, are contesting their first assembly elections.

The importance of this election (on several dimensions) was reflected in the turnout.

Bihar has traditionally been a low-turnout state. Even during the general elections last year, when the average national turnout was 66.44%, Bihar had a turnout of 56.26%.

The turnout of 56.80% represents an increase from 52.65% during the state polls in 2010.

Still, the current turnout is below that in most states which went to the polls after the general elections last year, including Delhi (67.2%), Maharashtra (63.08%), Jammu and Kashmir (65.52%), Haryana (76.13%) and Jharkhand (66.42%).

The EC said that the other interesting thing about the Bihar elections was that they were peaceful.

“Bihar polls have been historic this time, given that they went off peacefully even when there were several security concerns. The Election Commission started working with a comprehensive plan six months ago, specially for clean electoral rolls. The fact that women came out and voted enthusiastically also shows that the polling was peaceful," Umesh Sinha, deputy election commissioner in charge of Bihar, told reporters on Thursday.

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