The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is not certain how well it has done in the first two phases of polling held last week in Bihar as ground reports received from 16 different districts, constituting the 81 seats that went to the polls, suggest that the NDA candidates could have done better. The BJP has changed its campaign strategy and has turned the spotlight on state leaders such as Sushil Modi and Nand Kishore Yadav to attract voters. After the conclusion of the first phase of polling in 49 Assembly constituencies on 12 October, state BJP president Mangal Pandey claimed that the NDA alliance would get 30-odd seats.
In the second phase of polling on Friday, the Jitan Ram Manjhi factor, which the BJP was hoping would help it in the Gaya region, did not benefit the party. This was revealed in the internal assessment done by the party. The BJP has done well in Rohtas and Kaimur regions that went to the polls in the second phase.
As per the ground assessments done by the workers of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the reservation comment made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has hurt the NDA calculation. As a result, Yadavs and Kurmis are believed to have rallied behind RJD chief Lalu Yadav and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. This was reflected in the voting pattern in Bhagalpur and Munger that have a sizable Yadav and Gangota voters.
A top RSS activist, who was overseeing the poll management in Banka and Bhagalpur told The Sunday Guardian that rebel BJP leaders contesting against the official NDA nominees could do some damage.
Vijay Kumar, a senior party leader with a strong RSS background, was keen to contest from Bhagalpur, but was denied ticket by the party, which accommodated Arijit Sharaswat, son of BJP MP Ashwini Kumar Choubey. Kumar contested the election as an independent.
Similarly, to prevent anti-incumbency effect, the BJP fielded a new candidate from one of the two reserved constituencies of the state, Katoria, replacing its sitting MLA Sonelal Hembrom. The new candidate did not get substantial backing of established party workers in the area.
In the neighbouring Jamui district, two partners of NDA, Hindustani Awam Morcha of Jitan Ram Manjhi and Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan worked against each other. The LJP workers did not work for the success of the official BJP nominee as Chirag Paswan, chairman of the LJP Parliamentary party and MP from Jamui, wanted both Jamui and Chakai for LJP.
The RSS is now hoping that it will be able to recover the lost ground in the last three phases.