Bihar Assembly Election 2020 Result: Were these the closest Bihar polls in 43 years?
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has managed to secure a majority of 125 in the 243 member Bihar assembly. The vote share of the two alliances is almost identical at 37.3% for the NDA and 37.2% for the Mahagathbandhan (MGB). This is the smallest majority to a ruling alliance after since the October 2005 elections when the NDA managed to get 143 MLAs. The NDA and Grand Alliance had won huge majorities; 206 and 178, in the 2010 and 2015 elections. An HT analysis shows that the 2020 elections might have been the closest since 1977 in the state.
Share of seats with close contests the highest this time
In what was a very long counting process, mostly a result of an increase in number of Electronic Voting Machines and booths due to the Covid-19 pandemic, reports of wafer thin margins kept coming in. An analysis of the final results shows that the share of assembly constituencies (ACs) where victory margins were up to 2% of the votes polled or below, is the highest in these elections since 1977. 1977 is the earliest period for which this comparison is possible using the Trivedi Centre for Political Data’s database. This analysis excludes ACs which were carved out of Bihar to form the state of Jharkahnd in 2000. Not only is the share of ACs with lowest victory margins the highest in the 2020 polls, the share of ACs with victory margins higher than 20% of the votes polled is the lowest. The median victory margin in the 2020 polls is 8.05%, the lowest since the October 2005 election, when the median victory margin was 7.56%, and the second-lowest among all assembly elections in Bihar since 1977.
To be sure, the October 2005 election was much closer if comparisons are made on the basis of absolute number of votes. Number of ACs which were decided by a margin of less than 500, 1000 and 2000 votes in the October 2005 polls is 10, 21 and 40. These numbers are 7, 11 and 23 respectively in the 2020 polls. However, since the number of votes polled in different ACs and across elections vary, such comparisons can tell us little about how close the competition in an AC was. The average number of votes per AC was 96,925 in October 2005 polls. It has increased to 1,73,406 this time.
Both the NDA and MGB lost in close contests
Even though the elections were closely fought this time, both the alliances won and lost in close contest. The NDA and the MGB won 20 and 18 ACs with a victory margin of less than 2% of the votes polled. The MGB has a slightly bigger share of victories in the more than 20% victory margin category, whereas the NDA has the biggest share of victories in the victory margin of 5%-10%.
Within alliances, the Congress and the JD(U) have a bigger share of closely contested victories than the RJD-Left and the BJP. Except the BJP, the other three major parties (in order of number of seats won); the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal (United) and the Congress saw a rise in share of close victories compared to the 2015 assembly elections. While the Communist Party of India Marxist Leninist (Liberation) has won 12 ACs this time, it had only three MLAs in the last assembly. This is why it has been excluded from this comparison. To be sure the 2015 elections were fought in very different alliances compared to these elections. The ACs with the lowest and highest victory margins are Hilsa (0.01%) and Agiaon (34.53%), where the JD(U) and the CPI-ML emerged victorious.