As the third and last phase of the Bihar Assembly elections 2020 concluded this evening, all eyes were on the exit poll projections, put out by research firms and various agencies, to get a clear picture of the likely poll outcome.
According to the forecasts, which were based on responses of people who have cast their votes, the exit polls have basically surmised that there is but a slight margin of victory for the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), under the leadership of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, over the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
However, the edge is so close that there might likely be a hung assembly, according to the seat tally and vote percentage of all the parties.
Here are the five primary takeaways from the Bihar Exit Polls 2020:
Mood for 'parivartan'
If there is one thing that is clear from the Bihar exit poll projections, it is that the BJP may possibly have backed the wrong horse in this race and that the JD(U) might, ironically, drag the BJP down.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is the ruling coalition in the state, which is governed by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Kumar, who has headed Bihar since 2015 (and even before on instances) faces a strong anti-incumbency factor. The JD(U) understands this, and tried to sail its way to victory campaigning on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity and successful central schemes and faults of the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD regime before him, but it seems like it wasn't enough to cover the resentment against itself.
As we've been seeing in state elections for a while, local issues dictate assembly polls far more than national issues. After all, why on earth should a Bihari daily-wage labourer or an unemployed yougster in the state care for China, Triple Talaq, or Article 370 abrogation?
Tejashwi's return to popularity
The return of the prodigal son — or so to speak — Tejashwi Yadav is a notable factor projected by the exit polls, with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerging as the single-largest party. This is especially significant because not too long ago, Tejashwi was being criticised en masse as the 'jungle raj ka yuvraj', even by the Prime Minister himself.
The BJP and the JD(U) had tried hard to paint Lalu Prasad Yadav's son as the successor to the alleged lawless regime of his father, but as it turns out, the people of Bihar are looking to give the up-and-coming leader a chance than resort to yet another term of Nitish-led regime.
The India Today-Axis My India Exit Poll has shown that Tejashwi Yadav has returned as the numero uno in the political scene in Bihar.
According to the survey data, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)'s Tejashwi Yadav is the leading CM candidate in Bihar, with 44% of the electorate favouring him.
Tailing him is incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar, of the Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) with 35% of the electorate in favour.
Lok Janshakti Party (LJP)'s Chirag Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP)'s Upendra Kushwaha are behind with 7% and 4% of the electorate, respectively, favouring them.
Youth likely to have disproportionately voted against Nitish
The India Today-Axis My India poll projections have thrown up some interesting projections in the age-wise vote share: the 18-35 age group, categorically the 'youth', has disproportionately favoured a change in the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) regime, which is a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
It can necessarily be extrapolated that the youth in Bihar are not really satisfied with the way that the economy is heading, even when the older age group has moderately reaffirmed its support for the regime.
Why is this? The standard explanation, by all measures, would be the staggering unemployment rate in the state, which a Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) survey last year put at 46.6% in April.
Add to it the economic uncertainty, especially in the informal sector, delivered by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and you've got a recipe for disaster for the current regime.
Left presence made impact
As dusty as the line sounds, it does seem only the Left has been able to made an impact in the electoral equation of the Mahagathbandhan, arguably more so than the other regional caste-based parties.
According to the exit polls, the Left parties are on average projected to win around 15-17 seats, which around 6 times that of what they won in the last elections. Of these seats, the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation (CPIML-Liberation) alone is estimated to win around 12-14 seats, which would make it difficult for the RJD+ coalition to form a government without the support of the Left parties.
Another evidence of this claim also lies in the caste projections in the exit polls. According to Today's Chanakya, the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan has preserved its Muslim-Yadav vote bank (around 69% of the Yadavs and 80% of the Muslims have favoured the Grand Alliance en masse), while an increasing proportion of Scheduled Castes (SC), Extreme Backward Castes (EBC), and Other Backward Classes (OBC) have also favoured Tejashwi's leadership.
Since the Forward Castes seem to have shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), generally perceived to be a ‘Baniya’ party, the RJD’s presence is still formed by the Muslims and the Yadavs.
On the other hand, the Left parties hold a modicum of a social base across the upper-caste poor, the Mahadalits, the EBC-OBCs, and the Muslims, which is one reason why the RJD-Congress coalition opted to include the Left as well. This seems to have come to a likely fruition, as the polls have projected.