Two parties of National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is India’s current national opposition, scored big in the Bihar legislative elections. Bihar is one of India’s poorest and most populous states.
The NDA is the alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The combine of the BJP and its ally, the Janata Dal (United), won nearly 85% of the seats in the Bihar assembly. That is more than the Congress Party ever won back in the days when it was the dominant party.
The current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, will be returned to power. This time, however, the BJP is a larger component of the alliance. The Congress Party, and its allies within the (national ruling) United Progressive Alliance, suffered electoral devastation.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s ruling coalition won 206 seats in the 243-member assembly, the best-ever performance by any alliance or party in Bihar. The Janata Dal (United) improved its seat tally from 88 in 2005 to 115 in this election. Its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tally jumped from 55 in 2005 to 91 this election. [...]
The biggest casualty of this change was Lalu Prasad and his Rashtriya Janata Dal [a UPA component], which returned a score that barely qualified it put up an opposition leader in the new assembly. The RJD and its alliance partner Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won 25 seats, compared to 64 in last elections. [...]
Despite the large crowds that Rahul Gandhi drew at every rally he addressed, the Congress party managed to win four seats, compared to nine in 2005. Independent candidates and other parties won eight seats, down from 27 in last elections. [HT]
The election result has major implications for the future of the NDA-UPA competition, both nationally, and in other states. The UPA scored a large victory over the NDA in general elections in May, 2009. Now the Bihar victory shows a potential path back to power for the NDA, which governed India with a majority between 1999 and 2004: the BJP can win by putting its regional allies forward and downplaying its own radical Hindu nationalism.
Both [BJP and JD(U)] realised their alliance was symbiotic in nature. The JD(U) needed the BJP for bringing the upper caste votes. The BJP had to ride on Kumar’s image for the pan-Bihari vote. [HT]
The alliance managed to keep the Ayodhya issue quiet, averting a potential split in the electorate that might have threatened the allied parties’ ability to fish in different pools of voters within the state. The result this changes the political context, with its emphasis on development over the usual identity politics (although the just-linked item also sounds some notes of caution against over-interpreting the result in this way).
Already, it is having ripple effects in two other states that will vote in 2011, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, where Congress or an ally had been expecting big gains. Some have even been moved to suggest Kumar could be a future PM candidate for the NDA.