#BiharElections2020 – History of Elections in Bihar


The most awaited Bihar assembly election dates have been announced. Since the announcement, the nation is eyeing two archrivals in Bihar politics Nitish led NDA and Tejaswi (Lalu’s son) led Mahagathbandhan (MGB).

Being the epicenter of politics in India, Bihar is responsible for many significant political changes across the nation. The 3rd most populous State in the country with 10.4 crore people Bihar ranks 13th area wise. It has the second highest density of population in the country at 1,100 per km square (3 times the national average) second only to Delhi. Bihar has low literacy levels at 61 per cent (28th in the country).

The State has given the country great politicians like Dr Rajendra Prasad and Jai Prakash Narayan. JP Movement has its roots in the State. Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in year 2000, whereby its Lok Sabha seats reduced from 54 to 40 and its Vidhan Sabha seats reduced from 324 to 243. The State has the second largest population of Muslims in the country (16.5%).

The political land of Bihar was largely dominated by Congress for several decades uninterrupted with a support base comprising of upper caste, harijans / dalits and muslims. Bihar was amongst the 9 States in India which elected a non-Congress Chief Minister in 1967 after Karpuri Thakur (Socialist Party) persuaded Opposition to unite and put up a single candidate against the Congress.

The period 1967-72 saw massive instability in the state. 9 chief ministers and 2 stints of President’s rule during 1967-72. In 1972 elections, Congress won with a handsome majority, bagging 33% vote share ending period of instability.

After Emergency the Jai Prakash movement gained momentum across the country and in 1977 again a non-Congress Government was formed in Bihar. Janata Party (a broad coalition of Bhartiya Lok Dal, Bhartiya Jan Sangh, Socialist Party and Congress-O) swept the polls bagging 214 / 324 seats with a 42.7% vote share in line.

After the split in the Janata Party (Bhartiya Jana Sangh the parent organization of BJP left this block along with Chaudhary Charan Singh, Jagjivan Ram etc), it became weakened and the Congress bounced back in Bihar in 1980.

In 1985 after Indira Gandhi’s death the Congress got re-elected riding on sympathy wave. The years between 1985 and 1990 saw the comeback of erstwhile Janata Party rechristened as Janata Dal under Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Janata Dal formed a social coalition of OBCs, Yadavs, Muslims to win the elections in 1990 and Lalu Yadav became the Chief Minister of Bihar.

This started the Lalu era in Bihar – ‘jab tak rahega samose mein aloo tab tak rahega Bihar mein Lalu’ – he ruled the State for 15 years from 1990-2005.

When he was accused in Fodder Scam and had to go to jail, his wife Rabri became the Chief Minister of the State. If the Gandhis can do it, why not the Yadavs? Janata Dal emerged as the single largest party with 122 seats, 41 seats short of majority in 1990 and formed the Government with the support of communists and Independents.

In 1995, Janata Dal / Lalu got absolute majority with 167 seats. In 2000, it was a hung Assembly. Lalu’s Rashtriya Janata Dal emerged as the single largest party with 124 seats. NDA which comprised Samata Party, Janata Dal United and BJP got 121 seats. In a controversial decision, Governor appointed Nitish as CM. He failed to get the numbers and resigned within 10 days. Lalu again formed the govt. in the state with the support of smaller parties.

The main parties in Bihar went through restructuring process. Janata Dal split into Rashtriya Janata Dal (Lalu), Samata Party (George Fernandes & Nitish Kumar) and Janata Dal (United) led by Sharad Yadav.

Samata Party partnered with BJP (its earlier friends in Janata Party) to take on Lalu in Bihar. Samata Party later merged into Janata Dal (United).

In 2003, before the State elections in 2005, Nitish-led Samata Party merged with Sharad Yadav-led Janata Dal United. In 2005 voters gave a hung verdict. Polls were again held after 6 months in October in which NDA (BJP+JDU) defeated Lalu Prasad Yadav handsomely ending his ‘jungle raj’ and Nitish became the Chief Minister with 143 / 243 seats. The period saw massive development in the State deprived under Lalu Prasad Yadav’s regime.

The State has historically been backward and was part of the infamous BIMARU. Post the establishment of the NDA Government (BJP + JDU) in 2005, Bihar registered amongst the highest GDP growth in the country (of course, low base effect has played a role).

In 2010, people voted for NDA again and they got 206 / 243 seats. Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party was reduced to 22 seats. His party didn’t even get the Leader of Opposition post. The polls witnessed clear support for the NDA with few close contests and was clearly one sided. Only 40 / 243 seats saw victory margins of less than 5,000 votes.

An important point to note is that the break-away factions of the erstwhile Janata Parivaar (BJP, JDU and RJD) have increased their vote share since 1990. They together have exceeded their vote share of 42% in 1977. It’s another matter that they have been contesting separately. Congress meanwhile has seen its vote share evaporate from 39% in 1985 to 8% in 2010. It won only 4 seats in 2010.

It’s ironical that for the fight in 2015 partners changed. Earlier it used to be Lalu vs Nitish & BJP. In 2015 it was Lalu & Nitish vs BJP. How times change! That’s why I say impossible is possible in politics.

With his conviction in fodder scam Lalu’s political career was over. Then came a reprieve when Nitish backed out of NDA before Lok Sabha polls. Nitish received a jolt in Lok Sabha when his parry managed only 2 seats down from 22 and NDA went on to win 31 seats. RJD led alliance could win only 7 seats.

This prompted the two Lalu & Nitish to settle their differences and come together as arithmetically their aggregate vote share of 46% was more than NDA vote share in 2014 general elections. But elections are not all about arithmetic but also chemistry. They don’t trust each other and joined hands only for survival (JDU) and revival (RJD).

In 2015, the MGB defeated NDA and Nitish was installed as CM despite winning a few seats less than Lalu’s party. RJD got the tonic it needed for revival. Tejaswi became Deputy CM.

In 2017, Nitish Kumar dramatically dumped RJD & Congress and later joined with the BJP. Shushil Kumar Modi was then announced the deputy chief minister of the state. Nitish was apparently unhappy with corruption charges against Lalu’s family. Only palturam would know the real reason

In 2020, BJP has agreed to project Nitish as CM candidate. Both NDA and MGB are having ally troubles. Paswan’s LJP and Kushwaha’s RLSP could break out and contest independently or be part of a Third Front. Nitish is seeking a 4th term which history shows is not easy to achieve. Only Modi, Naveen and Jyoti babu have achieved this feat.

Interesting times ahead.. Stay tuned…

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