The NDA might have won the electoral battle of Bihar amid much hullabaloo over the unstable political landscape of the state, but the circumstances of the win and the wafer-thin majority with which the NDA was able to secure its power in the state indicate that those political calculations could have gone very wrong for the BJP-led alliance which has to take many lessons from its narrow win in the state.
Despite the strong anti-incumbency factor against the ruling JD(U) government, what made NDA’s victory possible was the division and dilution of votes during the final elections. The Bihar elections saw the rise of too many alliances with the Grand Democratic Secular Front (led by BSP leader Mayawati, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi and RLSP’s Upendra Kushwaha) entering the polling fray in the last minute. This confused the public of Bihar and further diluted the votes across the different alliances in a political landscape that already had NDA and the Mahagathbandhan of opposition parties in contention for the chief minster’s chair. This dilution of votes resulted in a mere 6% of total votes going in favour of the GDSF.
The 6% might look like a small percentage, but looking at the narrow margin by which the NDA won, this 6% representing six assembly seats had they gone in favour of the opposing Mahagathbandhan could have swung the people’s mandate the other way.
Despite the narrow margin by which the NDA won, it is believed by many that the Alliance has grown weaker in its influence over the eastern state of Bihar, but the numbers say otherwise. According to political calculations, the BJP has seen a drop of five percentage in the total vote share of NDA even when compared to its share in 2015. However, as an individual entity, the party has seen great success by increasing its seat share from 53 seats in 2015 to 74 seats in 2020.
JD(U), on the other hand, suffered both in terms of seat share and vote share. While the party saw a drop of nearly 10% in its vote share, its assembly seat share has also decreased this time to a low 43 seats. This has made the BJP not only the single largest party in the alliance but also in the state, leaving behind regional parties such as LJP, RJD and JD(U) behind.
The BJP has still kept Nitish Kumar as the face of the government because in his last three terms, Kumar and his welfare schemes have gained much traction and even though there was an anti-incumbency factor against the him, a vast majority of first-time voters and migrant workers voted for a Nitish Kumar government. Given the fact that this was Kumar’s last election and this term will be his last term in office before political retirement, public sentiment was behind the leader – and the BJP not choosing the long-standing chief minister of Bihar as its chief ministerial candidate would not have reflected well on its public image.
The 2020 elections were the most closely contested competition to be held in Bihar’s history, which is expected to encourage all parties to move away from divisive and vote bank politics to people- and development-centric politics.