New Delhi: Will the Bihar Assembly poll results again spring a surprise? Indications after the first phase of polling suggest so. However, it cannot be said definitely now as to which alliance will win as two phases of voting remain.
But as per indications, the NDA, led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, will have to work much harder in the remaining phases. What Nitish Kumar should ensure is that women, who are happy with his liquor ban policy, and girls, who are enjoying free cycle rides to their schools, come out and vote. Percentage of these voters is 7-9% and they are sitting silently. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav is already wooing youth voters. The NDA will be in trouble if Tejashwi Yadav manages to woo a large chunk of voters in the remaining two phases.
The BJP is making all-out efforts to woo voters in Bihar, but people’s anger against Nitish Kumar may be a spoiler. Sources say that the government’s intelligence report suggests so. That Mahagathbandhan is moving towards power is another suggestion in the report. Bihar is witnessing what Rajasthan did in 2017–“Modi se bair nahi Nitish ki khair nahi.” (No grudges against Modi, but we won’t spare Nitish). That is exactly what had happened in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The slogan in the Rajasthan polls was “Modi se bair nahi Vasundhara ki khair nahi.”
When BJP accepted the leadership of Nitish Kumar due to coalition dharma, it seemed that the Bihar polls will be one-sided and it will be a cakewalk for the NDA. But as the elections progressed, both the alliances now look to be on an equal-footing.
BJP strategists may not have foreseen this, otherwise the saffron party would not have opted for polls in the corona crisis now. Even the Opposition was demanding postponement of polls. BJP stalwarts got affected by coronavirus the most. Home minister Amit Shah contracted the infection that impacted BJP strategy. He stayed away from the campaign. Other bigwigs who had to campaign also got infected with coronavirus or announced to be infected and are now away from the campaign. Bihar in-charge of BJP Bhupendra Yadav, however, did not loosen the grip on the electoral battle. In addition to this, a lack of coordination is also visible in NDA, with confusion between BJP and JDU rampant.
Moreover, the BJP’s strategy to force LJP to go it alone appears to be counterproductive now. By the time BJP raised national issues to change the atmosphere, Tejashwi Yadav’s unemployment issue had worked. BJP made fun of Tejashwi Yadav’s 10 lakh jobs promise and then it got entangled in that. The local issues and unemployment raised by Tejashwi Yadav look to be impacting the elections, with youngsters cutting ice with that.
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity remains unchanged. Modi continues to be a crowd-puller, with huge gathering being seen in his rallies. The BJP’s concern could be whether the crowd will convert into votes–like 2015, when Modi rallies gathered crowd, but vote did not go to BJP, resulting in the Mahagathbandhan’s win. The BJP was hoping that Nitish Kumar being the face will make the battle easier for the NDA, but the situation seems to be changing before the remaining phases. However, nothing could be predicted definitely at this juncture. What is to be seen is how much BJP and JDU succeed in bringing their voters out of their homes in the second phase.
However, the intelligence report is not good news for the NDA. Mahagathbandhan is going to touch the majority mark. What is in the air is that the Mahagathbandhan may get 135 to 140 seats, while the NDA can end up before 100.