Home >Elections 2019 >Assembly Elections 2019 >How the BJP took the lead in the battle for Bihar, in four charts
BJP supporters celebrate the trend of Bihar Election at BJP HQ, in New Delhi. (ANI)
BJP supporters celebrate the trend of Bihar Election at BJP HQ, in New Delhi. (ANI)

How the BJP took the lead in the battle for Bihar, in four charts

In a tight contest, the above-average performance of the BJP is poised to make the difference in the battle for the Bihar assembly

Through the ebbs and flows in the counting of votes for the new assembly of Bihar, there was one constant: the BJP demonstrating a significant improvement in its electoral performance. That performance catapulted it into the position of the single-largest party in the state. That performance was strong enough to compensate for the weaknesses of its partner, Janata Dal (United), which had ruled Bihar for 15 years and was facing anti-incumbency.

That performance was also looking good enough to quell the challenge of the Mahagathbandhan (MGB), an alliance between the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress and a collective of left parties. At the time of going to press, several constituencies were locked in close battles with razor-thin margins, a majority of them involving the Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD. But the JD (U) was looking set for five more years in power, but this time as the BJP’s junior partner.

As a state that was severely impacted due to the fallout of the pandemic while suffering intense flooding during the monsoons, many perceived this election as a referendum on the ruling government’s pandemic response. The BJP’s performance has ended up defining the contest. At 3.30 pm on Tuesday, the NDA was leading in 129 seats in the 243-strong Bihar assembly. Its strong performance has been driven by a resurgent BJP, fuelled by the popularity of prime minister Narendra Modi. Even as Nitish Kumar was officially declared as the chief ministerial candidate of the NDA, Modi was central to their campaign

The BJP was leading in 73 of the 110 seats it competed in, or a strike rate of about 66%. That was double its strike rate in 2015, compensating for the underperformance of ally JD (U). In the opposition, both the RJD and the Congress, which were individually competing for more seats than in 2015, saw their respective strike rates fall. A big surprise came from the Left parties, which are part of the opposition alliance. They led in 18 of 29 seats competed, or a strike rate of 62%.

Even in individual party match-ups, the BJP was a picture of consistency. It led in over two-thirds of direct contests against the RJD. Against the Congress, it won 81% of seats. While the JD (U) trails in its match-ups with the RJD, leading in about 39% of the duels, it has a favourable record against the Congress, leading in over 63% of the duels. The RJD against the BJP, and the Congress against both BJP and JD (U), were the weak links in the opposition alliance.

For the JD (U), things were made worse by its ex-ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led by Chirag Paswan. The JD(U) contested 115 seats, with the LJP also in the fray. Of these, JD (U) led in 49 seats, but in 36, the LJP was running either second or third, eroding the former’s leads.

Of the 64 seats where the JD(U) wasn’t leading, there were 45 where the LJP figured in the top three. In these 45 seats, the JD (U) candidate trailed the leading candidate by an average vote share of 14 percentage points. The average vote share of LJP in these 45 seats was 16%. In 12 seats, JD (U) trailed the leader by 5 percentage points. While a complete transfer of votes even among alliance partners usually does not materialise, the LJP exit seems to have hurt the JD (U) in several seats.

In many seats, the contest was tight. At 3.30 pm, in 67 seats, the lead was less than 5 percentage points. The RJD was involved in as many as 41 of them, and was trailing in 24 of them. While the JD (U) also has significant stakes in these closely contested seats, leading in 18 and second in 14, its ally BJP was not as involved. Rather, the BJP seems to have significant margins where it is leading, and this can potentially swing the scales in favour of the NDA in the final outcome.

Even as final results are awaited in this cliffhanger, the NDA seems to have the edge. The implications of an NDA victory would be immense. This would mean that prime minister Narendra Modi’s popularity remains largely intact in the state despite the pandemic. Further, it provides a timely boost for the BJP as it sets its sights on the upcoming assembly elections in neighbouring West Bengal, where it faces its bitter adversary, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.

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