#BiharElections2020: Turnout, Undecided voters and Hawa will decide the course of Bihar elections from here

The voting for Phase 1 in Bihar takes place on October 28. Nitish Kumar’s photo is missing from Narendra Modi’s posters. He is seen losing patience in rallies over the crowd jeering him.

He has started to attack Tejashwi’s educational qualifications and corruption record showing nervousness. Tejashwi is continuing with his focus on unemployment and developmental issues.

From now on, there are three key factors which will decide the course of Bihar elections.

1. Turnout

Bihar has historically witnessed lower turnout than national average. The state recorded turnout of just 56.6% in 2015 state elections. During general elections its voting percentage was more than 10% points lower. After the introduction of EVMs, the turnout in the state has nosedived signalling bogus voting in previous years.

This is the first election in the country after the pandemic hit the world. The Election Commission has taken a number of steps to ensure safe and sound polls. The number of booths has been increased by a third, separate voting hours provisioned for the symptomatic voters and postal ballot system created for the elderly and covid patients.

Despite all this, there is a possibility that people don’t come out and vote for fear of contracting the virus. Many leaders campaigning in the state have been tested positive. This could result in lower voter turnout. Who will benefit from this?

Generally lower turnout is good for the incumbent. It shows that people who are unhappy with government performance are not angry enough to go out and vote it out in absence of any viable alternative.

The table below shows how this saved the day for governments in five states.

A higher turnout is normally associated with a vote for change. If turnout increases, it implies a high level of anti-incumbency, and public desire to change the government / CM. As per CSDS survey, only 38% of the respondents want another term for Nitish Kumar.

So, effectively there are two conflicting trends at play, COVID fear and mood for change, which will impact voting percentage and hence the results.

2. Momentum / Hawa

Elections in India are decided on hawa or in whose favour the wind is blowing. Opinion polls suggest hawa in favour of NDA while crowds at Tejaswi’s rallies suggest it is in favour of MGB.

Momentum plays a key role in influencing the voting pattern of undecided and swing voters. MGB has reduced the big lead which NDA enjoyed during general elections from 26% to just 6% in the state election as per CSDS opinion poll.

BJP’s matching offer of creating 19 lakh jobs versus RJD’s 10 lakh jobs offer and Nitish Kumar’s below the belt attacks are signs of nervousness.

BJP’s ploy to distance itself from Nitish Kumar to negate the impact of his waning popularity is an attempt to not give away the momentum to Tejsahwi who is gaining traction among youth. 75 lakh first time voters have registered who haven’t seen the jungle raj.

Google trends of Nitish verus Tejashwi in Bihar for the past one month shows Tejashwi catching up, again highlighting that MGB is gaining momentum.

And how is momentum / hawa built up? It is built up through effective campaigns including big rallies, door to door, posters / banners using all channels of communication namely print. electronic and social / digital media. Influencers, state as well as local, also play a key role.

3. Undecided Voters

As per CSDS survey, 10% voters have still not made up their mind as to who they will vote for. This is in line with the national trend where these 12%-15% undecided voters decide  on the day / few days before voting.

Additionally, 14% respondents said that they could change their voting preference before voting day. These swing voters along with undecided voters make up roughly one-fourth of the voting population of the state.

A swing voter is:

1. someone who has not yet decided who to vote for in an election

2. someone who does not always vote for the same political party and who might be persuaded to vote for one of several parties in an election

Undecided/did not reveal vote10
Revealed vote but said can change their voting decision14

This highlights that there is some confusion and doubt in the minds of a significant part of the electorate.

The undecided and the swing voters normally go with the hawa.  What happens between now and the polling day could play a key role in determining the final outcome.

This Article has been originally published here

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