The vote this time round was a strong assertion of change at the Centre. Only 9 per cent of the Muslims voted for the BJP; 60 per cent voted for the Congress and its allies

The remarkable victory of the BJP alliance (31 seats), the poor performance of the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress alliance (7 seats) and the dismal display by the Janata Dal (United) (2 seats) seem to be the highlight of the recent Lok Sabha election from Bihar.

The results call for a deeper analysis of the electoral trends in the State: was this merely an aspirational vote, where voters stood above considerations of caste and religion and voted for the BJP and its allies? Does such a rejection of the ruling party in the State raise questions about the development work done by the government or does it imply that there can be critical political circumstances when your development record does not matter? Does it also imply that the Bihar voter is making a clear distinction between the Lok Sabha polls and an Assembly poll?

Aspirational vote

Those who see the results in Bihar either as a rejection of the good work done by the State government or an aspirational vote could be misreading the verdict. Voters did approve the development work done by Mr. Kumar but the vote this time round was a strong assertion of change at the Centre. The BJP did play the aspirational card skilfully, resulting in the party attracting a huge chunk of voters. Yet, at the same time, the party carefully formed an alliance to create a caste combination that was strong enough to defeat the ruling JD(U) on the one hand and the RJD-Congress alliance on other. The BJP’s alliance with the Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) was clearly an effort to form a social coalition of the upper castes, Dalits and sections of OBCs, including the Koeris. On the other hand, the alliance between the RJD and the Congress was an effort toward the consolidation of the Yadavs and Muslims.

The analysis of our data indicates that over one-fourth of the voters in Bihar voted for a change at the national level. Many of them voted on the issue of lack of development in Bihar and some in anticipation of better facilities of roads or better supply of electricity or drinking water. It must also be stressed that Bihar witnessed the strongest ever polarisation of the upper castes and Dalits in favour of the BJP, and of the Muslims and Yadavs in favour of the RJD-Congress alliance. Among the Paswans, more than two-thirds voted for the BJP-LJP alliance. It must also be noted that among the non-Paswan Dalits, the polarisation towards the BJP alliance was not as strong; only one-third said that they voted for the alliance. In the case of the upper castes (Brahmin, Rajput, Bhumihar, Kayastha in the main), the post-poll survey indicates that over three-fourths favoured the BJP-led alliance, voting for the BJP-LJP alliance. The alliance with RLSP also helped the BJP alliance in consolidating a sizable segment of the Keori vote in their favour. Among the Keoris and the Kurmis (the two dominant OBC castes), over one-fourth voted for the BJP alliance and only three of every ten voted for the JD(U). Both these castes were expected to vote for the JD(U).

Bihar also witnessed very sharp reverse polarisation as close to two-thirds of the Yadavs and Muslims favoured the RJD-Congress alliance. The JD(U) faced a near wipeout in these elections, losing support even in its core constituency — the Kurmis — the caste to which Nitish Kumar himself belongs to.

(Sanjay Kumar is a Professor and Director, CSDS)

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