EnglishPolitical

Bihar Elections: Exit Polls Predict “Advantage Mahagathbandhan”

Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI. Nov 7: Even as the third phase of the Assembly elections in Bihar by and large ended peacefully, barring a lone incident of private firing killing one person in Purnia, most of the exit polls including by some of the television channels known for their leanings towards the BJP, predicted RJD-Congress “Mahagathbandhan” to be marginally ahead of the NDA.

The BJP, however, received good omens from Madhya Pradesh where its government led by Shivraj Singh Chauhan was expected to earn more stability as the exit polls predicted 16 to 18 seats for the party out of the 28 seats that went for by-elections. The Congress, which lost 25 members through a stream of resignations led by its one-time national leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, then a close aide of former president Rahul Gandhi, could retain only 10 to 12 seats. The BJP need only nine seats out of 28 to cross the majority mark and could end up gaining more.

In 243-member Bihar Assembly, the third phase polling for 78 seats ended with about 56 per cent turn out and considering that it was held amidst a world-wide scenario of Corona pandemic, in fact the first elections to be held in the country after Corona hit India in March, the turn out in all the three phases were comparable with the last elections. The Phase 1 on October 28 recorded 54% votes –– marginally lower than 54.75 per cent for the same 71 seats in 2015 elections. Similarly, Phase 2 polling on November 3 witnessed 55.7% voter turnout as compared to 56.17% recorded last time. With 7.3 crore voters, the Legislative Assembly election in Bihar this time was shortest in 15 years with only three=phase polling this time compared to five in 2015 and four in 2005.

In Purnia, one person was reportedly shot by a bike-borne assailant near a polling booth when he was going to cast the ballot. The deceased, Beni Singh was the brother of Bittu Singh alias Aniket Singh, a youth RJD leader who has several cases against him and was arrested by STF in November of this year. The assailant was absconding, the police said.

In a separate incident, police said they had to open fire in the air to disperse a crowd from a polling booth at Alinagar village under the Dhamdaha constituency because they were disturbing the poll process.

In Patna, Neeraj Kumar Jha, an independent candidate from Benipatti constituency, succumbed to COVID-19 on Saturday at the AIIMS, Patna, hospital even as polling was continuing in his district Madhubani. A diabetic, Jha was admitted to the hospital 10 days ago after he reported Corona positive.

Meanwhile, the police filed an FIR against the RJD candidate from Jokihat assembly segment Sarfaraz Alam, who seeks to wrest the seat from his own brother now contesting on an AIMIM ticket. He was booked for allegedly violating the model code of conduct, a senior official said on Saturday. Instructions were issued to lodge an FIR against Alam after he was spotted at a polling station wearing a badge denoting lantern, the RJDs poll symbol, said District Magistrate Prashant Kumar.

However, Alam claimed it was an “oversight” and that he would “fully cooperate with any legal proceedings” that may arise out of the incident.

Considered to be a referendum on the chief minister Nitish Kumar’s 15 years rule and handling of the pandemic situation by the Narendra Modi-led central government, the Bihar elections have evoked significant interest among the people, particularly because the migrant labourers from Bihar were said to have suffered unprecedented pains in returning to their home state during the lockdown. Unlike in 2015 election when the JD(U) but quit it mid-way and led the NDA government with BJP, the Nitish Kumars’s JD(U) his time in a partner of the NDA while deceased leader Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party has quit the NDA and has contested the elections on its own. The Bihar outcome could also have its impact in the neighbouring West Bengal which go to polls early next year with the BJP eying to take control of the state for the first time.

In a state that has always been watched for what its social and political undercurrent signify, Election 2020 is being keenly watched. It is India’s first mass polls in the shadow of the pandemic, and Bihar’s first in a long, long time without either Lalu Prasad or the just deceased Ram Vilas Paswan present. Nitish Kumar, meanwhile, has conceded much ground in his alliance with Narendra Modi’s BJP.

It is also noteworthy that five of Bihar’s 15 districts that cast their ballots in the final phase of the assembly elections on Saturday, were among the state’s top 10 Covid-19 districts in terms of the total number of cases indicating that the handling of the pandemic could have an impact in the outcome of the elections for the 78 seats in the third phase.

Following are the predictions of various exit polls.

According to projections by three exit polls commissioned by media houses, The Times Now C-Voter exit poll, the first to be released minutes after voting ended on Saturday evening, said the NDA could end up with only 116 seats, seven short of the majority mark of 122, in the 243-member house. The Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat exit polls projected anything between 91 and 117 seats for the NDA while the ABP C-Voter exit poll indicated the NDA could get between 104 and 128 seats.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who led the opposition coalition, is projected to get about 120 seats, by the Times Now C-Voter exit poll. Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat projected 118-138 to the RJD alliance, 5 to 8 for the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and others may get 3 to 6. The ABP C-Voter exit poll said that the Grand Alliance is likely to be anywhere between 108-131 seats and the LJP could win 1-3 seats.

Today’s Chanakya exit polls suggested that the Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan would be far ahead of the ruling NDA with 44% vote share. The NDA’s vote share was pegged at 34%, it indicated. The India Today-Axis My India added that the Tejashwi Yadav had emerged as the first choice for the chief minister’s chair with support from 44% respondents. Nitish Kumar, who has been Bihar’s chief minister for 14 years, came next with 35% respondents supporting his return for another term. The LJP’s Chirag Paswan was the first preference for just 7% people, it added.