Bihar Elections: Exit poll predicts lead for BJP-led alliance

Counting of votes tomorrow in high-stakes Bihar polls

Patna: Counting of votes in the high-stakes close-to-call Bihar assembly elections, billed as a hot battle between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, will take place on Sunday. The counting for the 243 seats of the assembly will begin at 8 am and the verdict for a majority of seats is expected by the early afternoon. Most of the exit polls have predicted a close contest between the BJP-led NDA and the grand alliance of JD(U)-RJD-Congress with a slight edge to the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led grouping.

BJP workers perform a havan for the party’s win in Bihar assembly elections in Patna on Friday. pic/PTI
BJP workers perform a havan for the party’s win in Bihar assembly elections in Patna on Friday. pic/PTI 

Among the prominent faces in the battle are mahadalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, who has fought from two seats, and two sons of RJD chief Lalu Prasad have also made their electoral debut. The five-phased elections, which started on October 12 and ended on November 5, saw the lead campaigners from both sides trading bitter accusations that at times turned personal. Over a dozen FIRs were lodged by the poll authorities in Bihar against top leaders of the two alliances concerning their alleged hate speeches. The accused included BJP chief Amit Shah, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav. Modi had led the NDA charge by holding over 30 rallies while Shah held 85-odd public meetings.

A win for the saffron alliance will help BJP shake off the opposition attack on it over the “climate of intolerance” and embolden it to push its agenda ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament. However, a loss for it will reinvigorate the opposition ranks and help Kumar acquire a key role in national politics after he suffered a big setback in the Lok Sabha polls. A defeat for the grand alliance will deliver a body blow to the politics of Kumar and Prasad from which it may take a long time for them to recover. Results at Patna Sahib, Bankipore and Kumhrar are also important to know the impact of the absence of local MP Shatrughan Sinha from the campaign. In the outgoing assembly, the JD(U) and BJP had contested elections together and won a massive majority.

The JD(U) had won 115 seats and BJP 91. The RJD had won 22 and Congress 4 when they contested on their own. But, the scenario has changed altogether this time with JD(U) and BJP parting company and heading rival coalitions. JD(U) of Nitish Kumar teamed up with RJD and Congress in the grand secular alliance. BJP led a coalition with LJP, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha. From Secular alliance camp, JD(U) and RJD contested on 101 seats each while Congress fielded candidates on rest 41. In the NDA, BJP fought on 158 seats and gave 41 to LJP, 23 to RLSP and 21 to HAM.

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