#BiharElections2020: Who has the upper hand?

Bihar votes for 71 seats in Phase 1 on October 28. Around 2.3 crore voters will exercise their franchise and decide the fate of over 1,000 candidates in fray.

Polls will be held in 16 districts namely Patna, Bhojpur, Buxar, Kaimur, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Arwal, Jehanabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui, Bhagalpur, Banka, Munger, Lakhisarai, and Sheikhpura. Majority of these seats (53) fall under the Magadh-Bhojpur region. 18 seats fall under East Bihar region. Fate of 29% of assembly strength will be sealed on that day.

13 seats are reserved for the SC category, 1 for ST and the balance 57 are for the general category. More than two dozen constituencies in eight districts, including Gaya, Aurangabad, Nawada, Lakhisarai, Munger and Jamui, are considered vulnerable to Maoist violence.

In 1 seat minority population is above 17% and in 34 seats mahadalit population is above 10%, the state average.

On an average 15 candidates are contesting for the first phase of polls as LJP, RLSP led front and Pappu Yadav led front are conesting on many seats.

The main contest is between Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance and Rashtriya Janata Dal led Mahagathbandhan (MGB).

RJD is contesting on 42, Congress on 21 and CPI(ML) on 8 seats from MGB. JD(U) is contesting on 35, BJP on 29, HAM on 6 and VIP on 7 seats. The maximum and high voltage contests are between Nitish Kumar’s party and Tejashwi Yadav’s party on 24 seats.

In 2015, JDU had won 18 seats, RJD 27, BJP13, Congress 9, HAM, RLSP, CPIML 1 each and Independent 1 seat.

Phase 1 is very crucial for both parties to build momentum for the rest of the phases. In 2015, MGB had seized momentum by performing well in Phase 1 of the 5 Phase elections. JDU and MGB were in alliance together in 2015 polls. NDA had won 32 seats, MGB 37 and Others 2. Not an apple to apple comparison as partners in both alliances have changed. JDU has hopped from MGB to NDA. CPIML has joined MGB. RLSP and LJP have left NDA.

On 41 seats, LJP, the estranged partner of NDA, has put up candidates against JD(U). It remains to be seen whether he damages Nitish or splits votes helping him to better his party’s strike rate.

From the NDA side, JD(U) has given the highest number of tickets (28) to Non Yadav OBCs as Kurmi / Koeri is the anchor vote block of the party. BJP has given majority (61%) of the tickets to upper caste who are its core supporters and are 15% of state population.

From the MGB side, RJD has given maximum tickets to Yadav candidates, which is on expected lines. Congress has given majority tickets to upper caste members as it attempts to revive its old traditional vote bank. CPIML (Left) has given the highest number of tickets to NYOBCs.

LJP also has given almost half the tickets to upper caste candidates, targeting mostly rebels from other parties including some BJP heavyweights.

MBCs and Mulsims have been underrepresented from both sides.

A caste matrix of contests shows that highest number of matches (contests) are  between Dalit candidates on SC reserved seats, followed by general versus general contests on 12 seats. Yadav candidates from both groups slug it out for 6 sears.

5 of these seats witnessed tight contests in 2015 with victory margins of less than 3,000 votes. In 5 seats the victory margin was between 3 to 5,000 votes. So 10 seats had close contests. 13 of these tight contests were won by more than 5,000 votes which is considered a decent margin in assembly polls. 48 seats were decided by more than 10,000 votes difference, denoting comfortable wins. With two major contenders this time and 2-3 spoilers, will margins reduce further, it remains to be seen?

Seven members of the Nitish Kumar government namely Prem Kumar (Agriculture minister, Gaya town), Vijay Kumar Sinha (Labour minister, Lakhisrarai), Ram Narayan Mandal (Land reforms minister, Banka), Brij Kisore Bind (Mines minister, Chainpur), Jai Kumar Singh (Science and technology minister, Dinara), Santosh Nirala (Transport minister, Rajpur) and Krishnandan Verma (Education minister, Ghosi)., are seeking re-election.

Other prominent candidates whose fate will be decided are Sadanand Singh’s son Shubhanand Mukesh (8 time Congress MLA from Kahalgaon), Jiten Ram Manjhi from Imamganj (HAM state president), Rajedra Singh (BJP rebel on LJP ticket from Dinara), Rameshwar Chaurasia (BJP rebel on LJP ticket from Sasaram), Rishi Singh (ex minister Kanti Singh’s son from Obra) and shooter Shreyasi Singh from Jamui.

All parties are facing rebel candidates.

The agrarian crisis, economic crisis following the pandemic, high unemployment, migrant crisis, Naxalism and recurring water crises are the major public issues in this region.

As per ABP-C Voter opinion poll, NDA is leading in the Magadh-Bhojpur region with 44% vote share followed by MGB with 33% and LJP at 4%. In East Bihar NDA is leading with 47% vote share followed by MGB with 29% and LJP at 4%.

This phase is very important for both alliances. Better performance in these seats, will give a head start to either alliance. While MGB would want to make a dent in NDA,  NDA would like to maintain its Lok Sabha leads in these assembly segments where it swept almost all the seats. A very keen battle ahead….

This Article has been originally published here

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