Puzzling: Bihar Angry with Nitish, still votes for BJP to see Nitish as CM

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Despite all the odds against them – lack of jobs, covid19, lockdown, job loss, migrants’ crisis, economic slowdown, anti-incumbency, exit polls – the NDA has won enough seats to form a majority government in Bihar. NDA won 125 seats (BJP-74, JDU- 43, Allies -8) against Grand Alliance’s 110 (RJD- 75, CONGRESS- 19, LEFT- 16).

Bihar elections showed that voters were angry with Nitish Kumar as JDU’s share of seats went down from 71 in 2015 (when he was part of the MahaGathbandhan) to just 43 in 2020. From the voting trend it appears that Bihar did not want Nitish Kumar back as CM. But BJP’s Amit Shah had pledged before elections that even if BJP’s share of votes was larger than JDU’s (Amit Shah somehow foresaw that) Nitish Kumar would still be their CM. It’s puzzling that Bihar’s sensible voters who were angry with Nitish Kumar and refused to give their full support to him still voted BJP to 74 seats despite knowing that BJP would make him their CM again. If this was PM Modi’s “charisma” did Bihar not know that they were not voting for Modi but Nitish as CM ? These were not general elections when voters are expected to vote differently in favour of a national figure. What did Bihar vote for? A far-fetched idea but – did Bihar want BJP’s numbers to go up in the Rajya Sabha no matter Nitish stays as CM? With this line of reasoning Bihar may be thinking more like BJP than ordinary voters who want a better local government.

Clearly Bihar voted in favour of a regional party and preferred RJD over JDU. RJD enjoys the favour of most Biharis with the party emerging as the single largest party in Bihar. Tejashwi Yadav has emerged as a popular leader whom most Biharis would have preferred seeing as their CM while they rejected Nitish mostly. If Nitish’s leadership and his alliance with BJP were popular, why reject JDU?

Understanding voter trend and behaviour has become more and more difficult during Indian elections which now go on for days together and are held in different phases since 2014, even in States, with votes being counted much later and not immediately after Election Day. With machines replacing the paper ballots EVMs often face the blame. The Election Commission has however maintained their impeccable character (EVM’s) saying they are invincible. The Grand Alliance has however made allegations of irregularities during elections claiming Election Commission was working under pressure from the Nitish Kumar administration and denied winning certificates to candidates of the Grand Alliance ­­- allegations that were refuted by the Commission. Tejashwi Yadav may however still approach court over recounting of votes.

BJP’s power duo of Modi and Amit Shah, their election-winning skills and management that guarantee every election win are commendable. Even in states where they missed the majority mark the BJP machinery has continued to work closely with local leaders to get MLAs from opposition parties on board to win back the states. They have worked towards a ‘Congress-mukt’ bharat from every state.

Congress is being seen as a weak link in the grand alliance whose numbers went down even further from 27 in 2015 to just 19 in 2020. Congress can stop thinking about how Muslim parties cut their Muslim votes and start focussing on why they could not gain the seats that BJP won.

The Left has shown that it still cannot be dismissed as a side not making a difference.

Nitish Kumar – the CM choice forced on Biharis is likely to take oath for the 4th successive time.

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