The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) forged ahead of challenger Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) in Bihar on Tuesday, leading in 125 of the 243 seats from where trends were available till 5 PM. Current trends show the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging with the largest seat share in the state, even ahead of chief minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) (JD-U).
On the other hand, the opposition Grand Alliance (Mahagathbandhan) is ahead on 106 seats - RJD 71 (won two), Congress 20 (won one), and the Left on 18 seats.
BSP has a lead on two seats, AIMIM on three, while Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is ahead on one seat.
Was Chirag Paswan's strategy to fight assembly elections in Bihar actually a pre-planned move by the BJP to chip away the anti-incumbent votes against the ruling dispensation?
This is a question worthy of consideration, as current trends have projected the BJP as emerging with far more seats than any other regional party in the state, and is definitely performing a lot better than both Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav's political palaver.
This is especially notable, considering that both RJD and the JD(U) have dominated the political scenario of Bihar for years, even before the BJP entered the scene.
Was Chirag Paswan's LJP the 'masterstroke' by BJP to divide up the votes of those who were angry with chief minister Nitish Kumar's regime? Here's what the consensus says.
Chirag contesting against Nitish — was it pre-planned?
Nitish Kumar's 15-year-long rule had naturally led to an anti-incumbency wave among the people of Bihar against the ruling JD(U) government. The BJP and JD (U) reportedly noticed this last year, in the course of planning for the state assembly polls.
Reports say that the NDA conducted several internal surveys, which showed that the losing margin in the coming elections could be very low, if the anti-incumbency was allowed to prevail. Therefore, the only natural strategy is to divide the votes of those who are displeased with the government, in order to prevent giving a boost to the RJD.
The key character in this political game could have been LJP chief Chirag Paswan.
Since he was already ready to contest against Nitish, he was a likely candidate to fight elections alone and divide the anti-incumbent votes.
Targetting Nitish during campaigns
According to political experts, Chirag Paswan, while working on the aforementioned strategy, started targeting Nitish effectively.
We saw this during the run-up to the polls and during campaigns and rallies as well. Blame-games continued between the LJP camp and the JD(U), while Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar often resorted to personal attacks against each other.
At the same time, Chirag was also portraying himself as "loyal" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. This made for some awkward optics for the BJP and the JD(U), who are contesting the polls in coalition, but the game might have played itself in the long run.
The ruling party had also announced state honours for Chirag's father Ram Vilas Paswan, a veteran of India's politics who passed away shortly before the polls. Even Nitish Kumar attended the funeral, which brought sympathy among the deprived sections in Bihar, especially within the Paswan and the Musahar castes.
How has LJP impacted the elections?
For the Bihar assembly polls, the Chirag Paswan-led LJP had provided its electoral candidate in every assembly constituency that Nitish's JD(U) was contending. However, barring one or two seats, the LJP did not contest the BJP.
According to the latest trends, the LJP is leading in only one seat, and has garnered around 6% of the vote.
But reports state that the party has cut down the votes of the JD(U) in around 50 seats. On the other hand, the LJP has also harmed the Mahagathbandhan somewhat by preventing the opposition from taking advantage of the anti-incumbency votes.
Chirag's wish of becoming 'kingmaker' vanishes into thin air
In lieu of this data, it can be said that pitching Chirag as a 'wild card' could potentially have played out well for the BJP, in emerging as the single-largest party and forcing Nitish's JD(U) to take a back seat in the elections, while trumping the Grand Alliance at the same. However, looking at the current tally of Chirag's party, this doesn't seem too likely.
On the other hand, some political pundits had even suggested it was likely that Chirag wanted to become the 'kingmaker' in Bihar following the divisive elections, which also would explain his affinity for the BJP. However, this wish, if true, has anyway vanished into thin air by now.
Counting of votes polled in Bihar Assembly elections began at 8 am on Tuesday at 55 counting centres across 38 districts of the state.
On one side is the NDA which includes JD-U (115 seats), BJP (110 seats), Vikassheel Insaan Party (11 seats) and Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (7 seats).
Mahagathbandhan constitutes RJD (144 seats) and the Congress with 70 seats. Other alliance partners include the CPI-ML (19 seats), CPI (6 seats), and the CPIM (4 seats).
Incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the face of the NDA while Mahagathbandhan declared Tejashwi Yadav as its chief minister candidate.