By Jai Prakash Ojha for Youth Ki Awaaz:
As most of us are aware by now, the exit polls have failed to predict a clear winner in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly Elections. News X predicted a win for the Grand Alliance with 130 – 140 seats as against 90 – 100 for NDA, while Chanakaya Today proclaimed a comfortable win for the NDA with 155 seats and the Grand Alliance losing badly with less than 90 seats. Few other channels that I saw yesterday gave indications of a close contest between the rival parties with RJD-JDU-Congress combine holding a slight edge. As expected, leaders of both the camps flashed victory signs before the cameras, though till now, both Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar are yet to come out with their statements.
A significant section of the electorate in the state, particularly those belonging to weaker sections like EBCs and Dalits, are averse to disclosing their voting preferences. They often tend to get away with saying what you want to hear rather than revealing what is inside. The exit polls may or may not be correct as previous elections for LS and State assemblies have shown; when they start singing different tunes, things become more confusing. The conventional wisdom of the Bihar electorate has not been easy to fathom and it has on more than one occasion outthought the media and intellectuals. So, much importance may not be attached to the outcome of exit polls and surveys.
Many experts, including the RJD chief, feel that the reservation controversy worked to the advantage of the Grand Alliance but considering the ground realities, has it really been so? The vote share that NDA may get, even by the most pessimistic of projections, will not be less than 35-36 percent. Upper castes have supported NDA overwhelmingly, but they constitute only 15 -16 percent of the state population. Upper OBCs like Yadavs and Kurmis would anyway have not gone for BJP. From where will NDA pick up the other 20-25 percent of votes that the exit polls have shown and that too, when the 16 percent strong minority population has voted in consolidation against it? Hence, it is but natural to assume that the EBCs and Dalits have voted in good measure for NDA. This gives hope to BJP and the party may surge ahead. Bhagwat may have done no more than marginal damage that has been offset by the likes of Manjhi, Kusawaha and Ram Vilas Paswan.
Bihar has never been enamoured with Hindutva politics ever since its inception in the early nineties. This was billed as a battle between Mandal and Kamandal or in other words, between forwards and backwards. Even if the alliance wins, the fact that BJP has become a strong pole in Bihar and the traditional Mandal alliance has shown signs of disintegration and reconfiguration in this election should give cheers to the party.
Dr. Sambhu Sharan Singh, Regional Director at IGNOU and a resident of Saharsa, has been a keen observer of political events in the state. He feels that once the electorate makes up its mind, campaigns and political speeches fail to move them. Despite all talks of communal and caste polarization, it will be a vote for change. When surveys were conducted two months before the polls, they showed the same trends as we saw in the exit polls on various channels. So, the question is, did anything change in between? Where was the need for all the acrimony, names calling and blatant caste and communal cards? If there would have been communal polarization in the elections like it happened in UP, all the exit polls would have shown a saffron surge.
Despite all adverse forecasts for Grand Alliance, Nitish remained as the most preferred C.M. choice. This trend was witnessed in Delhi Elections where despite unfavourable ratings for AAP, Kejriwal remained the people’s choice. The last minute fluctuation in voters’ choices led to his victory and that can happen in Bihar too. There was no visible anti incumbency factor with Nitish as was the case in Harayana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra with the ruling parties. Moreover, BJP played into his hands by making the election as a battle between Nitish and Modi. Overexposure of Modi may have led to the diminishing of his brand. More presence from the likes of Sushil Modi, Ravi Shankar and Nawal Kishore Yadav would have greatly enhanced the perception among the electorate that BJP has capable faces for the post of Chief Minister. The common refrain among most of the alliance supporters was – we supported Modi as PM, it’s time to have Nitish as CM. Modi can’t run Bihar from Delhi.
Despite all the analyses, no one is ready to predict anything. The electorate has carefully weighed its options and given its verdict which will become public on 8th November. One thing is certain – it will be a close contest. Till then, it’s curtains drawn.
‘Bihar Elections With Ojha’ is part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s special coverage of the Bihar 2015 elections.