#BiharElections2020: What are the factors which will impact the outcome of Bihar elections? (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series on factors impacting outcome of Bihar elections, we analyzed factors like leadership ratings, caste arithmetic, equation between Nitish and Modi, COVID and turnout, and role of vote katwas. In part 2, we analyze 5 more factors which are likely to have a bearing on results of Bihar polls.

1. Economy (Unemployment & Migrant Crisis)

The pandemic has rendered many people jobless. Around 30-40 lakh migrant workers have returned from other states to Bihar. Small businesses have witnessed an impact on their continuity with many closed permanently. Of the 53 districts which registered the highest number of migrant labourers returning home, 15 recorded more than one lakh returnees. Of these districts, eight are in Bihar. Unemployment in Bihar was greater (double) than the national rate of 23.5% in April 2020 at 46.6%.

The rollout of NREGS in all districts and Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana have provided some succour. The distribution of free ration is likely to have helped the poor tide over the crisis. However, we all know about our administrative machinery loopholes and leakages.

Claims and counterclaims are galore on this topic. It all boils down to specific individuals / households (HH). Has the HH received the benefit of government schemes?

  1. If yes, is it happy with Nitish Kumar’s efforts? If no, is the household angry? Is the anger strong enough to drive household members to vote out Nitish?
  1. If no, will the HH vote out Nitish in anger? Or does it consider Nitish / Modi as still thie best bet to survive this crisis?

2. Women Turnout

Bihar is the only state where turnout for female voters is higher than that of male voters. Female turnout stood at 59.92 per cent as against 55.26 per cent for men in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This is primarily due to the popular schemes of cycle distribution and the prohibition decision of Nitish. Modi’s Ujjwala Yojana is also quite popular among women of the state. This has resulted in higher female participation. Even in terms of total votes polled, women are almost equal men. 

No. of voters3.733.33
Total Voters2.052.00

A high turnout among females is good news for NDA. One of the reasons why female turnout is higher is the fact that many migrant workers have their families in Bihar while they work outside their state. And, from these households women vote.

Now, many migrants have come back. So it may not be that easy for female turnout to have a higher differential of 5% (60%-55%) versus men.

“Given the BJP’s poor performance in constituencies with high Muslim proportions, an increased Hindu women voting turnout in constituencies with higher Muslim proportions may have a significant impact on the election in Bihar,” says Subhash Chandra, CEO of Crowdwisdom360.

3. Decision of LJP to be part of NDA

As per news reports, Paswan’s LJPis unhappy with the number of seats being offered to it. It is planning to contest all seats on which JDU will put up its candidates. Chirag and Nitish have been involved in a verbal duel for quite some time now with Nitish saying JDU doesn’t have an alliance with LJP, but only with BJP. BJP should give it seats from its quota.

LJP has good support among Dalits which are 5% of state’s population. LJP contesting separately could damage NDA prospects as it takes a straight 5%-6% from its vote share. JDU could face the heat in seats where dalits have a sizable presence. This could weaken JDU’s strike rate. If it gets far less seats than BJP, then the party may rethink its decision of backing Nitish as CM for the 4th time.

4. People voting to elect CM or MLA

When people go out to vote, are more people going out to vote to elect a CM or are more people going out to vote to elect a MLA? This is one of the key questions which would determine the outcome of elections. NDA has been in power for the last 15 years, and many of its MLAs are in their 2nd or 3rd term. It is very natural to develop some sort of anti-incumbency against them.

People might like Modi or even Nitish, but they may be unhappy with MLA. Some voters may feel NDA is winning anyways, but the local MLA needs to be taught a lesson. So they vote out the NDA nominee but want and are confident that Nitish will come back.

If this tendency spreads to many constituencies it could spell danger for NDA. Something of a similar nature happened with Shivraj in Madhya Pradesh in 2018. Voters will keep a close eye on the number of MLAs denied tickets by both NDA as well as MGB.

MGB has the highest number of MLAs (80) in the assembly. Since JDU parted ways with RJD in 2017. It fell out of power and its MLAs may not have been able to get their work done, citing non-cooperation from NDA ministers. This could turn out to be problematic for MGB as well.

5. Role of national factors

These two tables from the C-Voter survey would have sent shivers down the BJP think tank. Almost half of respondents rate his performance as poor, while more than half want him to go.

This could force the BJP to contest the elections on national issues. Propagate issues like taking credit for construction of Ram Mandir, abrogation of Article 370, making Triple Talaq illegal, giving a befitting reply to China on the Ladakh standoff, try to play the Hindutva issue with a tadka of nationalism.

However, the Maharashtra and Delhi elections show that less than 10% voters voted on national issues in these state polls. So how does BJP overcome this?

To sum up, a potboiler of an election is on the cards in Bihar. Will Nitish win and join the exclusive club of Modi, Jyoti Babu and Naveen Babu winning a 4th term, or will the young Lalu scion Tejaswi spring a surprise?

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