Politics

Elections 2019 | Bihar's Electoral Math

Bihar is a set to be the stage of an all-out battle between the NDA and UPA.

The five constituencies that went to the polls in Bihar for in the second phase of this election saw voter turnout at 62.04%

This article has been updated to reflect the poll numbers for the state with ECI figures as of 10pm Thursday.

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Bihar, with 40 constituencies, is one of the most keenly-watched states during Lok Sabha elections. The run-up to the 2019 polls saw an intense race between the United Progressive Alliance and National Democratic Alliance to stitch up broad alliances.

2014 Election Backdrop

In 2014, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance performed exceedingly well, cornering 31 seats. This played an crucial role in prime minister Narendra Modi getting the required majority at the Centre.

The UPA at the time consisted of :

  • The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
  • The Congress-Nationalist Party (NCP)
  • Congress Party.

The NDA comprised of :

  • The BJP
  • the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)
  • Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP).

The JD(U), which had left the NDA after Modi was declared the prime ministerial candidate, won only two seats while the UPA had to settle with seven.

Assembly elections 2015

This had prompted the opposition to fight the assembly elections in 2015 together. The coming together of arch rivals – Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD – in what was called the mahagathbandhan or the grand alliance consolidated a majority of backward classes under the opposition umbrella.

The NDA lost the assembly elections by a huge margin as the assembly polls turned into a “backward versus forward” contest.

However, two years later in July 2017, chief minister Nitish Kumar did a somersault. He suddenly deserted the RJD to form government with the support of the BJP. Subsequently, his party, JD (U) became a part of the NDA again.

Electoral arithmetic in 2019

The 2019 parliamentary polls will see a contest between these two camps.

UPA:

The UPA will contest the polls with a substantially large alliance. Former partners of NDA – RLSP and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), Vikassheel Insan Party, and rebel JD (U) leader Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal have now joined the UPA.

Apart from these, the Communist Party of India (ML-Liberation), which has a good presence in pockets, is also contesting as a part of the opposition alliance.

While the RJD and Congress are contesting 20 seats respectively, the remaining 11 has gone to allies.

If seen through the prism of caste groups, the opposition alliance represent a broad section of backward classes and Dalits in Bihar.

NDA:

The NDA comprises the BJP, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and JD (U). While the BJP is generally seen as a party-driven by upper caste groups, the NDA hopes to cash in on some backward class and Dalit support because of the JD (U) and LJP respectively. Both the BJP and JD (U) are contesting 17 seats each while six has gone to the LJP.

While both the alliances are placed almost similarly in terms of their traditional vote shares, the fact that chief minister Nitish Kumar betrayed the 2015 assembly mandate may harm the NDA prospects, analysts say. The RJD and Congress since 2015 have worked hard to consolidate their core vote banks of Yadavs and Muslims. However, the NDA has advanced a strong hyper-nationalist campaign to consolidate Hindus of the state. It hopes that the strategy may help it override the unfavourable caste arithmetic.

Important contests

Among the many fights, a few seats will be keenly followed. The Patna Sahib seat will see a contest between the ex BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha, who recently joined the Congress, and union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is contesting Lok Sabha for the first time.

Also, Begusarai has caught national attention. Here, former JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar contesting from CPI will take on RJD candidate Tanweer Hassan, which running the chance of diluting the Muslim vote. The BJP leader in this constituency will be Giriraj Singh.

The others constituencies to watch out for will be Madhepura which will see a contest between opposition candidate Sharad Yadav and former RJD MP Pappu Yadav, who will fight as an independent candidate.

Pataliputra will also see a battle between Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti and BJP’s sitting MP, Ram Kripal Yadav. Ram Kripal was a close aide to Lalu Prasad and heavyweight RJD leader before he joined the BJP ahead of 2014 parliamentary polls. There have been reports that Tej Pratap Yadav, the mercurial elder son of Lalu-Rabri, was pushing back against the ascendance of Tejashwi Yadav being declared as the political heir apparent of the RJD supremo.

Muzaffarpur will also see “son of mallah” Mukesh Sahni contesting as the UPA candidate. He belongs to the backward fishermen community (said to be around 14% of Bihar’s population) and was a star campaigner for the BJP in 2014. He made a fortune designing Bollywood film sets in Mumbai before he plunged into active politics.

Saran Lok Sabha seat will also see the union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy seek another term. Rudy had defeated former chief minister and Lalu Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi in 2014.

In Bihar, the constituencies going to poll on April 18 are as follows: Kishanganj, Katiha, Purnia, Bhagalpur, Banka.