An internal assessment by the BJP has the party worried about its prospects in the crucial Bihar election with two phases of polling out of the way, as the review points to a close fight between the NDA and the coalition led by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Voters from 81 of the state’s 243 assembly constituencies have made their choices so far in the polls that will also decide how the Opposition will respond to the NDA government’s legislative agenda at the Centre. A united Opposition stalled the government’s business in Parliament’s monsoon session and the BJP is in desperate search of a win in Bihar to silence them ahead of the winter session.
The BJP’s assessment suggests the rival Grand Alliance took the lead in the first phase of polling on October 12 for 49 seats in 10 districts.
“We seem to have not done as well as we expected in the first round,” said a BJP national office-bearer privy to the study. However, sources said the party expected the first round to be a difficult one based on previous elections.
The second phase of polling on Friday covered 32 assembly seats in six districts of central Bihar. In 2010, when it was in alliance with the ruling JD(U), the BJP had fielded candidates in 12 of these constituencies and won nine.
With self-styled Mahadalit icon and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi on its side, the BJP expected to sweep the areas that voted in the second phase as they have a considerable population of the Scheduled Castes, particularly the Mahadalits, apart from the upper castes. However, the internal evaluation has thrown up a surprise.
“Manjhi comes from this region and given his support among Mahadalits coupled with the BJP’s own reach among the upper castes, we expected a definitive victory in this phase of polls. But, it now appears that the Grand Alliance may be very close to our mark even in this phase,” revealed another BJP leader in Delhi.
Candidate selection by allies and sabotage were some of the reasons suspected to be behind the party’s less-than-encouraging performance, said sources.
The Bihar election is crucial for the BJP as a win will help it consolidate power and build its strength in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling combine is in a minority, allowing the Opposition to thwart crucial reforms.
The party has now pinned its hopes to the third phase of polling on October 28, covering 50 assembly constituencies in six districts. Urban centres like Patna and BJP strongholds including Saran, Bhojpur and Buxar will see voting in this round and leaders expect “gains” in this phase would compensate for any losses in the first two outings.