The Bihar Assembly election turned out to be a nail-biter on the day of counting. Vote shares of NDA and Mahagathbandhan were almost identical 37.3 per cent and 37.2 per cent respectively. Some election pundits have called the closest ever election in Bihar. In recent times, only Madhya Pradesh witnessed such a close fight in 2018 when the loser polled 0.1 per cent more votes than the winner.
What is unique in this Bihar election is that the two leading state political parties suffered losses. The gainers were those who base their politics in strong ideologies the BJP, the Left parties and AIMIM of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
The BJP contested 110 seats and won 73 of them with a strike rate of over 67 per cent. It was a sharp improvement of 21 seats over 2015, when it had contested 157 seats. In 2015, BJP’s strike rate was just under 34 per cent.
In terms of vote share, BJP has polled 19.5 per cent votes. It had secured 24.4 per cent votes in 2015 but spread over 1.4 times the constituencies it sought vote in 2020. In 2015, the BJP had won 91 seats. The BJP gained hugely from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal in this election.
This is the first time since 2000 when BJP has won more seats than Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party. In 2000, Nitish Kumar’s Samata Party had won 34 and the BJP 67. But back then the BJP had contested 168 seats with a strike of around 40 per cent. The election back then had been held for 324 seats of undivided Bihar.
The Left parties were vanishing from Bihar. The only Left force to have some visible presence in Bihar was the CPI-ML, which incidentally does not have much recognition in other states. In the Bihar election 2020, three Left parties others being the CPI and the CPI-M of Bihar vastly improved their performances.
The CPI-ML won 12 of 18 seats it contested. It had won three seats in 2015 and nil in 2010. It has recorded an impressive strike rate of over 66 per cent.
The CPI, which had failed to win a single seat in 2015 and had just one in 2010, won two seats in Bihar election 2020. It had contested only six seats. Similarly, the CPI-M, which did not have a single seat in the last two elections, won three seats of the five it contested a strike rate of 60 per cent.
Asaduddin Owaisi is another of the striking stories of the Bihar Assembly election 2020. He seeks votes for his AIMIM claiming that the so-called secular parties the Congress and the RJD for example in Bihar have used Muslims as vote bank without addressing their problems. Owaisi lists out the issues of the Muslims in AIMIM constituencies to distinguish them from other community people.
This approach got much traction in Seemanchal region of Bihar the four districts of Purnea, Katihar, Kishanganj and Araria where Muslims are in greater percentage of resident population than other parts of Bihar.
The AIMIM has won five seats in this region and breached what was once held as the fortress of RJD, thus contributing the NDA in stopping the Mahagathbandhan from coming to power in Bihar. It contested 19 seats and had a strike rate of 26 per cent. It had contested six in 2015 without winning a single seat. It later made debut in Bihar Assembly through bypolls at Kishanganj.
VERSUS THE BIG THREE
Contrast the rise of these three against the decline of other three big parties of Bihar. The RJD, which many thought was on its course to form the government in Bihar, won five seats fewer compared to 2015. In 2015, the RJD had won 80 seats out of 101 it contested a strike rate of almost 80 compared to just 52 in Bihar election 2020.
The JDU had won 71 of 101 seats it had contested in 2015. Back then its strike rate was over 70 per cent. This time, it contested 14 more seats to win 28 fewer seats at a strike rate of 37 per cent.
Similarly, the Congress, which was the numero uno party of Bihar before the rise of Mandalised parties the RJD and the JDU, had won 27 of 41 seats it contested in 2015. Back then the Congress’s strike in Bihar election was almost 66 per cent. In 2020, the Congress contested 70 seats for its 19 MLAs a strike rate of 27 per cent.