BJP faces 10% worry despite Nitish and Chirag coming to their aid in Bihar

Tejashwi tried to position the RJD as the BAAP party, but it was another election where a 73-year-old showed that he remains the real baap of the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Chaudhary and Lok Janshakti (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan during a public meeting ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Chaudhary and Lok Janshakti (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan during a public meeting ahead of Lok Sabha elections.File Photo | PTI

In Bihar, the BJP was left with a lot of pondering to do despite emerging on top with its allies in Lok Sabha elections 2024.

The saffron party and Nitish Kumar's JD (U) both won way more seats than the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), but trailed the latter in vote share.

The RJD secured 22.14% of the votes despite winning only four seats. It was a handsome percentage increase for the party from the 15.36% it won in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and just a shade less than the 23.11%  it had won in the 2020 Assembly election.

As for the BJP, the 20.52% vote share it ended up with was less than the 23.58% vote share it had won in 2019 and nearly 6% less than the 29.40% it achieved in the 2014 election.

"The vote share being almost 10% lower than in 2014 must be a big worry for the BJP top brass," remarked political analyst Pramod Kumar.

The Janata Dal United JD(U), led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, got 18.52% of the votes, and the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), the other key NDA ally led by Chirag Paswan, received 6.47%.

The declining vote share is a major concern for the BJP, which is set to revamp its state unit ahead of the assembly elections due in October next year. 

BJP's deputy CM Samrat Choudhary, from the Koeri caste, who has till now been seen as a rising star, could fall out of favour.

[20:43, 11/06/2024] Immaya: [20:46, 11/06/2024] Rajesh: Thanks [20:46, 11/06/2024] Immaya:

Tejashwi - the man who trumped even PM Modi

This was one election where RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav went on and on, like Tennyson's river. In fact, he addressed more election meetings (251) than even PM Modi (206).

The 34-year-old got a rousing reception everywhere and many credited him for giving jobs to the jobless. Yet, his party stumbled because of errors of their own making and the election arithmetic being stacked against them.

If there was some comfort to be found in numbers, it was in that the four seats they won in 2024 were four more than in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. 

A few major reasons might have contributed to the RJD's limited success.

One, while Tejashwi attempted to broaden the RJD’s appeal beyond the MY (Muslim-Yadav) vote bank by insisting that his was now the 'BAAP' party -- 'B' for 'Bahujan', A for Agda (upper caste), the second A for Addhi Aabadi (women) and P for Poor -- his efforts fell short. 

Many observers blamed his candidate selection too.

Tejashwi's gamble of fielding six female candidates compared to NDA's two, for instance, did not yield the results he expected, they said. 

Former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Study, Professor S Narayan, suggested that better coordination with other INDIA bloc constituents could have increased RJD's tally.

Professor Narayan said that instead of seeking the support of the topmost leaders from the Congress and Left parties, Tejashwi mainly campaigned with the Vikassheel Insaan Party's (VIP) chief Mukesh Sahani.

Tejashwi might have done this to reach out to the Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs), but the VIP's performance, which had been dismal both in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections, was no different this time around.

Professor Narayan noted how Congress leader Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Bihar for only two days. 

"Tejashwi gave undue importance to Mukesh Sahani, creating resentment not only among other allies of the INDIA bloc but also among a section of his own party leaders and workers," the Professor noted.

Tejashwi's sister losing in Saran by 13000-odd votes despite sitting BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy facing strong anti-incumbency was probably the deepest cut of them all.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Chaudhary and Lok Janshakti (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan during a public meeting ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
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How Nitish changed election dynamics

One important observation that emerged is that both alliances were successful in making inroads into each other's vote bank. 

An anonymous political observer noted that RJD successfully attracted votes from NDA's traditional supporters. But crucially a section of Muslims and Yadavs voted for NDA candidates. This was thanks in large measure to the welfare schemes launched by CM Nitish.

Ergo, the INDIA bloc might have swept the state if Nitish had stayed with them.

Interestingly, the election saw Bihar record the highest number of NOTA votes among major states, with 2.07% of voters -- nearly 81.7 lakh -- opting for this option.

The CPI(ML)'s comeback

Meriting a story of its own was the CPI(Marxist-Leninist) Liberation's -- CPI (ML) -- comeback. The party won two seats out of the three it contested, marking its return after three decades. 

Sudama Prasad won the Arrah seat from the BJP, and Raja Ram Singh won from Karakat, demonstrating the party's growing influence after an impressive performance in the 2020 assembly elections.

A CPI(ML) candidate had been last elected from Bihar in1989, when Rameshwar Prasad won from Arrah.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Chaudhary and Lok Janshakti (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan during a public meeting ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
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Nitish aces it

As mentioned earlier, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar proved crucial for the BJP in Bihar. 

His JD(U) won 13 seats and underlined its political importance.

The seats where the Chief Minister's party clinched a victory were Araria, Banka, Bhagalpur, Gopalganj, Jhanjharpur, Katihar, Madhepura, Nalanda, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Siwan, Supaul and Valmikinagar.

Nitish's health and occasional bloopers on the campaign trail were subjects of speculation, but he demonstrated that 'Paltu Ram' hadn't lost his relevance and his hold.

Tejashwi might have tried to position his party as the BAAP party, but 73-year-old Nitish showed once again that he remains the real baap.

His JD(U) is now one of the two kingmakers at the Centre and has secured significant positions in the union cabinet too, reflecting Nitish's continued influence among non-Yadav OBCs, EBCs, women, and a section of Muslim voters.

A political analyst remarked that now the BJP will not dare disturb Nitish in the slightest.

Modi's 'Hanuman' Chirag Paswan's returns a 10/10

Chirag Paswan's LJP (Ram Vilas) returned the best showing in terms of seats.

It fought in five seats and won all of them -- a memorable debut for the party in a Lok Sabha election held less than three years after its formation in October 2021.

PM Modi rewarded his ‘Hanuman’ by making Chirag a cabinet minister.

Chirag means light. A bright political innings now awaits Ram Vilas Paswan's son.

(Map and Chart: Immayabharathi K)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Chaudhary and Lok Janshakti (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan during a public meeting ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
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