In early Bihar poll leads, the BJP seems to zoom ahead of its partner Nitish Kumar – who faces a massive anti-incumbency after helming the state for 15 years – the chief ministerial face of the ruling National Democratic Alliance. The early numbers suggest that the BJP is the gainer, while the JD(U) faces a stiff test.
Nitish Kumar’s party has always played the role of the senior partner in the Bihar alliance. However, if the trend carries on, there will be a reversal of roles. The BJP has never held the chief minister’s post in the state.
The Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbhandan, which most exit polls have given an advantage, appears to be in a tight contest with the NDA.
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Tejashwi Yadav, mahagathbandhan’s chief ministerial face, ran a spirited election campaign and centred on the promise of 10 lakh jobs if voted to power. The issue seems to have galvanised them as was evident by the huge numbers at his rally. The young leader, who critics say has come into his own during this election, marshalled his party well with no Lalu Prasad to guide him around.
The Congress, contesting on 70 seats, is the junior partner in the alliance.
The BJP campaign was bolstered by Prime minister Narendra Modi. Other star campaigners were defence minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, BJP chief JP Nadda, among others.
Chirag Paswan, who lost his father Ram Vilas Paswan in the middle of the polls, has kept up his unrelenting attack on Nitish Kumar. Despite breaking away from the NDA alliance in Bihar, Chirag’s Lok Janshakti Party continues to support the BJP at the Centre. The Jamui MP has openly professed his support for PM Narendra Modi while keeping up his attacks on Nitish Kumar. The BJP, on its part, has kept its distance from Chirag Paswan, insisting that it is with Nitish Kumar. Paswan even put up candidates in all seats against the JD(U) and at one stage during the campaign even vowed to put the CM in jail.
Nitish Kumar, 69, contested the 2015 assembly polls in alliance with the RJD – his archrival Lalu Prasad’s party. The two went on to form the government with Tejashwi Yadav becoming the deputy chief minister. However, by 2017, the bonhomie disappeared and Nitish Kumar was back in the NDA fold.
The other block in this election is the Grand Democratic Secular Front (GDSF) led by Upendra Kushwaha’s the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party. The GDSF is a coalition of six parties – the RLSP, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), the BSP, the Suheldev Samaj Party (SBSP), the Samajwadi Janata Dal Democractic and the Janatantrik Party (Socialist).
The counting of votes for the 243-member state assembly is underway. The majority mark is 122.