Come October 12, Bihar will begin voting in 49 assembly constituencies in the first of the multi-phased election.
A pre-poll survey carried out exclusively for The Indian Express by Lokniti-CDS shows that the BJP-led NDA has stolen a march on the Grand Alliance.
NDA would have had an overall lead of four per cent over the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine if polling ended in the last week of September.
The survey shows that NDA enjoys a healthy lead of 20 per cent over the Grand Alliance in urban areas, but that margin is cut down to just 2 per cent in rural.
There are a multitude of factors that can influence the common Bihari voter to back a political party. The votes a party receives can be broadly classified under caste, class and religion.
With five days remaining before the first vote is cast, we look at the some of the things that can shape the outcome of Bihar Assembly Elections.
How the Muslims will vote?
The Muslims voters are not as polarised when compared to other social groups. They have traditionally voted for the Congress in Lok Sabha polls and the RJD in the Assembly. In 2010 Lok Sabha elections, a majority of the state’s Muslim population has voted for the Congress. Even in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Muslims backed non-BJP parties such as the RJD and JD(U). Lokniti-CDS latest pre-poll survey suggests that 52 per cent Muslims are leaning towards the Grand Alliance this time.
Development or caste?
Both play an important role in making up a voter’s mind. Prime Miniter Narendra Modi rode to power in 2014 on the development plank and, at the same time, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been trumpeting his government’s achievement under his rule. BJP has never won a majority on its own in Bihar, however, it believes that Modi’s appeal will translate into votes despite the handicap of not projecting a CM face.
Though no party openly acknowledges it, caste will also play a key role in this election. The upper classes — Rajput, Brahmin, Bhumihar and Kayastha — are staunch BJP supporters, while the Grand Alliance enjoys the backing of Yadavs, Kurmis and other groups. But the Dalit and Mahadalit vote bank will be split among the main parties with Ram vilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi leading from the front.
The Lokniti-CDS pre-poll survey also points towards how Nitish Kumar is the most preferred choice for the chief minister post despite the public’s mood wavering when it comes to his party, JD(U).
An overwhelming majority of 63 per cent rated his performance as chief minister higher than the 53 per cent for Narendra Modi’s performance as prime minister. Similarly, 53 per cent are satisfied with the JD(U) government and 50 per cent are satisfied with NDA at Centre.
Nitish’s net likability is also a per cent higher than Modi. However, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s net likability of minus five per cent could damage Nitish’s chances of becoming CM again.
But the final decision, as alway, is in the voters hands. And that is why we have to wait till November 8 when we get to know how the 243 seats voted.