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Bihar cliffhanger

NDA appeared poised to form government in Bihar; Tejashwi gives NDA a real fright

MANOJ CHAURASIA | Patna |

The NDA led by chief minister Nitish Kumar was poised for yet another victory for fourth time in Bihar by a slender margin, after a day-long see-saw battle compounded by delay in vote counting in the country’s first election amidst pandemic.

Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD emerged as the single largest party as it either leads or won in 75 of 243-seat Bihar Assembly. According to trends from Election Commission, NDA either leads or won in 125 seats while Grand Alliance stood at 110. “People’s blessings to NDA’s good governance even after 15 years of rule shows what are Bihar’s dreams and expectations,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as NDA prevailed over the anti-incumbency sentiments, adding, “Bihar taught the world the first lesson of democracy and today again it has told the world how democracy is strengthened”.

The Left’s bag of seats swelled after it won 14 of the 29 seats given by Yadav as part of poll pact with RJD. CPI (ML) was leading in two seats according to ECI website.

Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s party AIMIM has won five seats.

“Big parties treated me like an untouchable… Our party president met every important Muslim leader as well. But nothing worked out. Cannot tell you why it didn’t happen,” Owaisi said, adding he expected better performance from his party. The AIMIM will decide later which party it will support, he said.

When the counting of ballot papers began, the winding ways of this poll was evident since morning.

The RJD-led Grand Alliance were spectacular in the early trend but very soon, the scene changed when the counting of EVM votes began.

The Grand Alliance continued trailing in the EVM votes and it was never able to make up the loss even as it remained engaged in neck-to-neck fight. For the major part of the day, the NDA’s tally remained between 120 and 130, and eventually, it had the last laugh amid repeated allegations of unfair counting and delay in handing victory certificates to the Grand Alliance candidates.

The result indicates chief minister Nitish Kumar will clinch victory for the fourth time in a row but now it all depends on the “mercy” of the BJP since his JD-U has won fewer seats than the BJP.

Although the BJP has announced to offer Kumar the throne even if the JD-U wins lesser seats, experts say Kumar has lost “political legitimacy”. “Nitish Kumar has lost his political legitimacy to continue in power with his party winning fewer seats than his ally. So, it will be best for him to step down,” commented political expert Satyanarayan Madan.

Kumar faced strident outcry from the masses attending his rallies and the situation became so critical that he had to depend on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bail him out.

As protests intensified, the chief minister had to finally depend on Modi’s “popularity” and Kumar even shared dais with him at almost six election rallies to capitalise on Modi’s personal charisma.

This Bihar election was indeed a major test for the BJP after it lost a series of Assembly elections in several key states in the past five years. How it had become a matter of prestige for the BJP is underlined from the fact that Modi launched a series of steps in the past four months to gain support of the masses.

His instruments were launch of `50,000 crore worth Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan to boost employment and livelihood opportunities for migrant workers returning to villages in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak; promising free Covid-19 vaccines to the people of Bihar; Centre’s approval to All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Darbhanga; laying the foundation stone of Ram Temple at Ayodhya, and trying hard to make actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide a poll issue.

Apart from these, the PM also repeatedly highlighted the sacrifice of soldiers from Bihar regiment. A good thing for the BJP is that it has managed to shed its junior tag and become JD-U’s “big brother” in the state Assembly after 15 years. Tejashwi may have missed the bus narrowly but the kind of political maturity he displayed has been hailed by one and all.

In fact, he single-handedly countered the mighty NDA attack led by an army of leaders including Modi along with a dozen Union ministers, two chief ministers, several MPs and national spokespersons.