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Divided opposition boost for Nitish

His governance record won him votes, but it was a divided opposition that gave Nitish Kumar’s ruling alliance a record mandate.

delhi Updated: Nov 26, 2010 23:49 IST
HT Research

His governance record won him votes, but it was a divided opposition that gave Nitish Kumar’s ruling alliance a record mandate.

The Janata Dal (United)-BJP combine polled about 38.8% votes — or 2.7% more than last time — this election. Its tally surged 44%. How?

An analysis by HT Research of the votes polled shows that the RJD-LJP combine — the main opposition — saw its vote share fall sharply by 9%, from 34.6% in last elections to 25.7% this time.

While about a third of this loss has gone in favour of JD(U)-BJP, the rest has been taken by independents, smaller parties and Congress, which chose to go it alone and contested all 243 seats in the state.

There were 2,246 candidates — almost 10 per seat — who fought as independents or candidates of smaller parties such as Nationalist Congress Party or Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

They won only eight seats, but polled 27.3% — more than the votes polled by RJD-LJP — and thus managed to spoil the show for the main opposition.

The decision of the Congress party to go it alone in Bihar and contest all 243 seats on its own made it even better for the ruling alliance. In 2005, Congress contested only 50 seats when it fought the elections in an alliance with RJD-LJP.

Had it continued in that way, a scrutiny of the numbers by HT Research show, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U)-BJP combine would have won only about a third of the 63 extra seats that it did in this elections.

The split has also hurt Congress, which won only four seats compared to nine last time. That its vote share increased from 6% to 8.4% is no consolation because the party contested almost five times the number of seats it fought in 2005.

While a divided opposition helped the JD(U)-BJP combine come back to power with a record four-fifths majority, the vote was still a positive mandate for Nitish Kumar.

Votes for the ruling combine may have poured in from all sections, but the most palpable support came from the extremely backward castes that account for 26% of the state’s electorate and the weaker sections among Muslims (Pasmanda group), who were wooed through various measures such as appointment of Urdu teachers, raising boundaries of graveyards and vocational courses under centrally-sponsored Hunar scheme.

Muslims account for 18% of Bihar’s electorate and one in nine of them belongs to the Pasmanda group.