Exit polls telecast Saturday evening by major television networks after the final phase of voting for the Assembly elections in Bihar, which recorded a provisional voter turnout of 56.41% over three phases, predicted that the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was on its way out. While one poll forecast that the RJD-led Opposition alliance could get a two-thirds majority, another said it would cross the halfway mark comfortably.
Most exit polls gave the RJD-Congress-Left alliance a clear edge over the JD(U)-BJP coalition in the 243-member Assembly. All polls predicted that Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, which contested alone and hoped to play a key in government formation post elections, would end up with single-digit seats.
And in more bad news for Nitish Kumar, who was eyeing a record fourth term, many exit polls predicted that the BJP would perform much better than the JD(U).
Of the eight exit polls, two gave the RJD-led alliance a comfortable majority. While the India Today Axis My India poll predicted that the Tejashwi Prasad-led Opposition alliance would get between 139 and 161 seats, well above the halfway mark of 122, the CNN-NEWS 18-Today’s Chanakya poll gave the RJD-led alliance a landslide majority of 180 seats (plus or minus 11). The Chanakya poll gave the JD(U)-BJP alliance just 55 seats. The India Today poll predicted that the ruling alliance would get between 69 and 91 seats.
The ABP News C Voter poll predicted that the RJD-Congress-Left alliance would get between 108 and 131 seats and the JD(U)-BJP alliance between 104 and 128 seats. The Times Now C Voter poll said the RJD-alliance would get 120 seats, closely followed by the JD(U)- BJP alliance at 116.
The TV9 Bharatvarsh poll predicted that the Opposition alliance would get between 115 and 125 seats and the JD(U)-BJP alliance between 110 and 120.
The Republic Jan Ki Baat survey gave a comfortable lead to the Opposition alliance. It predicted that the RJD-led alliance would get between 118 and 138 seats while the JD(U)-BJP coalition would end up with seats ranging between 91 and 117.
The India Ahead-ETG poll said the RJD-led alliance would get 111-129 seats and the JD(U)-BJP alliance 106-122 seats. The NEWSX-DV Research poll predicted a close finish, giving the ruling alliance 110-117 seats and the Opposition alliance 108-123 seats.
Many polls predicted that the BJP would perform better than the JD(U). While the Times Now C Voter poll said the BJP was likely to get 70 seats and the JD(U) 42, the ABP poll gave the BJP seats ranging between 66 and 74, and the JD(U) between 38 and 46.
The Republic survey gave the BJP 60-75 seats and the JD(U) 31-42 seats. The India Ahead poll predicted that the JD(U) would get 44-50 seats and the BJP 58-64.
If the exit polls turn out to be accurate, it would be seen both as a failure and setback for the BJP’s initial strategy of presenting Nitish Kumar as the fallen leader, attempting to take advantage of the popularity and goodwill that Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys among the electorate.
Ahead of the elections as well as in the initial days of campaigning, the BJP effort had been to put the responsibility of the anti-incumbency on the ruling government led by Kumar and his JD (U). It was widely believed that Chirag Paswan’s vehement criticism and attack on Kumar had the tacit support of BJP leaders, that he had been propped to keep the Chief Minister in check.
But once JD(U) leaders warned that it would sabotage the NDA’s prospects altogether, BJP leaders, including party chief J P Nadda, spoke out against the LJP leader. JD (U) leaders said they had cautioned BJP leaders that “when water gets into the boat, the entire boat sinks”.
The overconfidence of BJP leaders that their party could emerge as the single-largest party because there was decline in Kumar’s popularity and there was absence of a vocal Opposition started diminishing after the first phase.
Although BJP’s star campaigners repeatedly mentioned the need to have Modi at the Centre and Kumar in Bihar, the damage had been done. The BJP’s hesitance over Kumar and Paswan’s attacks appeared to have confused voters.
The BJP contested 110 seats, leaving 11 seats to the Vikassheel Insaan Party, while ally JD (U) contested 115 seats. It had given seven seats out of its share to Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha (Secular). In the Opposition alliance, the RJD contested 144 seats, the Congress 70 and the three Left parties — CPM, CPI(ML) and CPI — 29 seats.
The last phase of elections Saturday saw a 57.91% voter turnout. Election Commission officials said the figure was likely to rise. In comparison, the same 78 seats saw a turnout of 60.6% during the last Assembly elections in 2015.
Cumulatively, the state’s provisional turnout stood at 56.41% as against 56.66 per cent in 2015, and 57.33% in 2019 during the Lok Sabha elections.
Umesh Chandra, Director General of Election Commission, said the healthy rate of voting was proof that India’s electoral process was robust and that the poll watchdog was capable of handling elections in the “most adverse circumstance” – this was the first major election in the country in the time of the pandemic.