Bihar polls: Vote transfer between partners will decide outcome

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·5 min read

Bihar elections are now entering a crucial phase. Results will be announced on November 10. Can Nitish create a record by making a comeback or can young Tejashwi dethrone him riding on anti-incumbency?

The momentum has picked up. Star campaigners are crisscrossing the geographical landscape of the state while candidates focussing on jan sampark.

Both the alliances, NDA and MGB-UPA, have been in place for some time. JD(U) and BJP have been in power for most of the 15 years. RJD and Congress have also been together since 2004, except for in 2010.

As these alliances have been in place for long, partners have been able to seamlessly transfer their vote blocks to candidates from other parties. Their vote blocks are also complementary.

JD(U)’s Kurmi/Koeri, MBC, and Mahadalit votes get seamlessly transferred to BJP. BJP’s upper caste, SC, and OBC votes get transferred to JD(U) candidates.

Similarly, RJD’s sticky Muslim-Yadav vote bank gets transferred to partners quite easily. However, we have seen that smaller parties like HAM, VIP, and RLSP failed to transfer their votes to RJD candidates in the 2019 general elections. One of the prime reasons they were shunted out.

Also, Congress party’s upper caste and Dalit voters (whatever is left of it in Bihar) do not easily vote for RJD candidates because of the animosity/strained relationships between Yadavs and upper caste/Dalits.

2014 general elections are the only election where the three main parties contested separately and this gives an indication of their standalone prowess.

JD(U) bagged 16% votes, UPA (RJD + Congress) 29% and NDA (BJP+LJP+RLSP) 39%. JDU formed an alliance with UPA for the 2015 state elections and the formation was named MGB.

In the 2015 state elections, MGB got 43% votes. It should have received 46% going by the 2014 general elections. The transferability quotient was 95% (43% divided by 45%) indicating a high degree of transfer amongst allies. The leakage was very low at 5%.

In the 2019 general elections, JD(U) made a ghar wapsi to NDA. RLSP, which had bagged 3% vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, left NDA and joined MGB. NDA should have received 16% (JDU) + 36% (NDA excluding RLSP), which is 52%.

NDA received more than 54% vote share. Transferability quotient more than 100%. Leakage was 0%.

MGB on the other hand received 27% votes excluding new parties HAM and VIP which were born after the 2014 general elections. It should have got 29% UPA received in 2014 plus RLSP’s 3%. The transferability quotient was 85%. Leakage was high at 15%.

The episode of LJP breaking away from NDA and putting up candidates only against JDU has created a trust deficit between the partners. Conspiracy theories are flying high that BJP has propped up LJP to undercut JDU to weaken Nitish Kumar’s claim on CM post.

However, BJP has officially denied any such gossip. But this has left a bad taste in the mouth of JDU voters at the same time confusing the BJP voter.

Adding more salt to the wound, Nitish Kumar is conspicuous by his absence in the BJP poll posters. PM Modi is the centerpiece of the posters with the slogan ‘BJP hai to Bharosa Hai’ sending out a loud and emphatic message that the party is banking entirely on PM Modi’s popularity.

It is often said elections are not only about arithmetic but also about chemistry. NDA has an arithmetic lead of 6%-10% in various polls, but it is lacking chemistry. On the other hand, MGB lacks the arithmetic but has chemistry going in its favor.

Lokniti-CSDS Survey - Voting preference of traditional voters of various parties

Lokniti-CSDS survey shows the impact of mistrust between JDU and BJP on the seamless transfer of votes. Only 70% of JDU and BJP traditional voters are voting for NDA candidates. 6% BJP traditional voters are backing MGB, this could be due to anti-incumbency. But 23% are voting for others, maybe LJP due to the confusion.

Similarly, 10% of JDU traditional voters are backing MGB due to anger against non-performance. But 20% are backing others, which means, at the back of the mind of Nitish voters, there is a conscious attempt to limit BJP seats, and give a tit for tat reply.

NDA got 54% votes in the 2019 general elections. Removing LJP from the equation reduces to 46%. Around 20%-23% of traditional voters are not backing alliance partner candidates as seen from the table above. This means NDA could get 37%-38% votes (80% of 46%). This tallies with the NDA vote share predicted by Lokniti-CSDS.

On the other hand, 83% of RJD voters are backing MGB candidates. However, only 47% of INC supporters are backing MGB candidates. There is a huge leakage of 46% from Congress which is going to others / smaller parties. Mainly upper caste, and dalit suporters of grand old party voting for LJP or others rather than RJD or Left its alliance partners.

Despite the chemistry, MGB is suffering from leakage, due to a weak partner in INC.

In the end, the ability of alliance partners to seamlessly transfer votes to each other with fewer leakages could decide the course of Bihar elections.

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