The poll fervour is slowly gaining ground in Bihar. Virtual meets and training programs for party workers have started. Both the alliances NDA and MGB are busy thrashing out seat distribution talks with partners. Prospective candidates have started jostling among each other to put up banners and hoardings in constituencies. Research associates of polling agencies are on the ground doing their surveys. Dheere dheere chunavi mahaul ban raha hai.
The elections this time around are fairly complex though it appears pretty routine and easy to predict from the outside. This is the first election in India in the post COVID world. The pandemic is scaling new heights daily. Parties and candidates are relying on digital politics and the personal touch element is being missed. COVID-19 could impact turnout.
Some inherently contradictory trends are emerging from the election scene in Bihar.
1. Nitish is trailing and unpopular but NDA is expected to win
As per initial opinion polls, NDA is expected to win the elections very comfortably riding on Modi’s popularity, caste arithmetic in its favour and TINA factor. However, all of these polls show that Nitish popularity is on the wane and he is facing severe anti-incumbency.
Further, 56.7% respondents said they are angry with his government and want change. 45.3% rated his performance as poor.
As per Prashnam survey, Nitish is trailing Tejaswi in preferred choice for CM (-1% females, -4% males). As per crowd prediction platform, Crowdwisdom360, Nitish is currently trailing Tejashwi on all the three parameters of trust, understanding and capability.
With 30% popularity ratings, I don’t recall any CM getting reelected in recent times. Both Shivraj Chouhan and Raman Singh who enjoyed 40% ratings lost state polls in 2018. If this is the situation then how is NDA winning? TINA? Maybe!
2. JDU is expected to get less seats than BJP, but Nitish is the CM candidate
The impact of anti-incumbency and anger against Nitish is that JDU is likely to get less seats than BJP in the elections. As per survey of VDP Associates while BJP is likely to get anywhere between 67-80 seats, JDU is likely to get only 34-44 seats. JDU’s tally is likely to be almost half of BJP’s tally.
Wasn’t BJP which boasts of presence across all booths in India through their network of panna prabharis not aware of JDU’s precarious position. If yes, why did it announce Nitish as CM candidate of NDA.
Even in 2015 elections, JDU had secured less number of seats than RJD (73 vs 80), but Lalu had kept his promise of making Nitish the CM. The difference was not much, only 10%. In 2020, though, as per polls, the difference could be 45%-50% between JDU and BJP tally.
Will BJP still accept Nitish as CM post results? Will it do a Shiv Sena on Nitish?
3. Paswan is part of NDA, but putting up candidates against JDU, leader of NDA in Bihar
Chirag Paswan has been at loggerheads with Nitish Kumar since the past six months.
Nitish is not giving bhav to Chirag and this has turned into an ego battle. Chirag didn’t want BJP to announce Nitish as CM. To which Nitish retorted LJP is not JDU’s alliance partner. His alliance is only with BJP. BJP still went ahead and announced him as the face.
Now Nitish is expecting BJP to accommodate LJP from its quota. LJP is demanding 42 seats, BJP not willing to give more than 30 as per reports.
If his demands are not met, Chirag is threatening to contest on 143 seats and put up candidates on all seats where JDU will be contesting. Again this is bizarre! He should naturally be angry when his demand is unmet, but why is his anger directed only against JDU and not BJP? Why not put up candidates against BJP too?
4. Tejaswi needs to broaden his social alliance beyond MY, but he is easing out Manjhi (mahadalit) and Kushwaha (Koeri)
One of the reasons why NDA is being predicted to win despite anger against Nitish is that it has caste arithmetic in its favour. RJD has been reduced to a Muslim-Yadav party. MY account for only 31% of the population and it cannot propel Tejaswi to become CM, with this support, in a bipolar contest.
On the other hand NDA enjoys the support of upper caste, kurmis, most backward caste, mahadalits and dalits. These groups account for 60% of the population.
This shows that Tejaswi, RJD and Congress, need to broaden their social base. They needed to accommodate Jiten Ram Manjhi (mahadalits; 10% of population) and Upendra Kushwaha (koeri/kushwaha; 8% of population). But the opposite is happening.
Manjhi was forced out and has joined NDA. Kushwaha was eased out and he has formed a Third Front with Mayawati’s BSP. Puzzling? Yes of course!
5. Bread and butter issues dominate public mind, but media is making SSR an election issue
According to a C-Voter survey, unemployment and return of migrant workers is the biggest issue in Bihar elections. SSR death issue doesn’t feature among major issues. According to Prashnam, 55% of Bihar voters don’t want Sushant Singh Rajput death to be a poll issue. However, media coverage, and some local / national channels are day in and day out playing the SSR case and projecting that it will be a major issue in poll bound Bihar. It shows that they may not be aware of the public pulse in Bihar.
Interesting times ahead in Bihar. The poll outcome will depend upon how these contradictory factors play out. Ye jo public hai ye sab jaanti hai…
This article was originally published here