The RJD-led Opposition Mahagathbandhan, which exit polls predicted would win the Assembly elections and end Nitish Kumar’s 15-year run as Chief Minister, fell short of the majority mark in the 243-member Bihar House Tuesday night.
Pulled down by the dismal showing of the Congress, the strong performance of AIMIM in Seemanchal, and the less-than-expected tally of RJD though it did emerge as the single largest party, the Mahagathbandhan refused to accept the results. It alleged that returning officers had given into pressure from the ruling alliance, and had not been fair in declaring the results.
The RJD, Congress and CPI (M-L) approached the Election Commission in Patna Tuesday night to lodge complaints, alleging irregularities in declaration of results.
After meeting poll panel officials, RJD leader Manoj Jha said: “There are over a dozen seats where tampering has been done. They are trying to change the people’s mandate. But even after such ill-intended attempts, we will form the government.” He said they had been assured that their grievances would be addressed. “We trust the ECI, but not district officials,” he said.
In New Delhi, Election Commission Director General Umesh Sinha, responding to RJD’s allegations that the ruling party in the state was influencing results, said, “I want to reassure everyone that our officers are working tirelessly and are not under any pressure.”
Asked about RJD’s claim that Mahagatbandhan candidates had won 119 seats and that many of them were not being given winning certificates under pressure from the ruling dispensation, Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar said, “As of 9 pm, results have been declared in 146 seats and trends are available for 97. This is in the public domain, and for everyone to see.”
Sinha said the EC’s information on its website is authentic as it’s published only after verification by the returning officers, and following due process. On the Left parties demanding a recount in three seats, Kumar, referring to the Commission’s instructions of May 18, 2019, said that wherever the winning margin is less than the invalid postal ballot votes, all the rejected votes would be mandatorily reverified.
In a neck-and-neck race, the Mahagathbandhan, which had been handed the state by all exit polls, surged ahead in the early hours of counting, but trailed the ruling NDA thereafter.
With the results not according to script, senior leaders of the RJD admitted that the huge crowds at Tejashwi Yadav’s rallies had not quite translated into votes.
And one reason for their disappointment, the leaders said, was the third phase of the polls, in the Muslim-majority region of Seemanchal which had 24 seats. Because it was here that the AIMIM did quite well, picking up 5 seats.
RJD leaders said if the AIMIM were to join the Mahagatbandhan, it may give them hope to form a government. Through the elections, the AIMIM emerged as a viable alternative for Muslims – it counted on the charisma of party chief Asaduddin Owaisi, its support of the anti-CAA protests and the building of party cadre on the ground.
In Seemanchal, many on the ground remained undecided until the last few days before polling. Although AIMIM was popular, people weighed the benefits of voting for an alliance that could form the government. In the end, the AIMIM did show itself to be a viable alternative
RJD leaders admitted that all these wins came at the cost of Mahagathbandhan candidates. “If you look at the data so far, we did very well in the first phase. The second phase was close, perhaps slightly less than we estimated. But the real problem was in the third phase. Where the AIMIM has won 5 seats and in other areas like Darbhanga, we seem to have won only one of 10,” a leader of the RJD said.
Leaders of the Mahagathbandhan said they were yet to analyse why this had happened. “But in a preliminary sense, we see that may be a section of the Muslims drifted away from us for a combination of factors. For some, it was sitting candidates of the Mahagatbandhan, and for others it was the AIMIM which stood by them in their hour of need. That is something we have to work on,” a senior RJD leader said.
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