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Summary of Bihar Phase – II Election

October 17, 2015

Despite threats from Naxals, the second phase polling was peaceful in the six districts in Central Bihar, considered the ‘red zone’. Elaborate security measures were taken and voting time had been curtailed by one hour and two hours in as many as 23 constituencies. (In Gaya district alone, polling time was slashed by one to two hours in nine out of ten assembly constituencies).

Quick Glance at Bihar Phase-2 Elections

 This resulted in an impressive overall 55 per cent voters’ turnout, which was a three per cent improvement on the 2010 assembly elections in the region. What was remarkable was that like in the first phase, women again took the lead in voting and their turnout was 57.5 per cent as against men who recorded 52.5 per cent.

Kaimur district recorded the highest polling percentage (57.86%).  Yet the polling percentage declined in Kaimur’s two out of four assembly constituencies as compared to the turnout in the 2010 assembly elections.

Kaimur was followed by Rohtas (54.66%), Jehanabad (56.94%), Gaya (55.54%), Arwal (53.21%) and Aurangabad (52.50 per cent). Although Aurangabad district registered the lowest voters’ turnout, yet there was a marked increase in three of its six assembly constituencies vis-a-vis the 2010 assembly elections as well as the 2014 general elections.

In Gaya, all except Belaganj assembly constituency witnessed larger voter turnout than in 2010 and 2014. In Gaya town, from where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s six time sitting MLA and a strong chief minister contender Dr. Prem Kumar is contesting, 51% voters’ turnout was registered, which was a marked improvement from the 2010 state elections (48%) as well as the 2014 general elections (48.97%).

In yet another key constituency of Gaya district, Imamganj, where the Hindustani Awam Morcha chief Jitan Ram Manjhi is pitted against the state assembly speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary of the Janata Dal (United), 55% voting was  registered – a significant rise from 47.58% in 2010 assembly elections and 47.98% in 2014 general elections.

In Jehanabad’s Makhdumpur assembly constituency, another seat from where Manjhi is contesting and is pitted against the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Subedar Das, the polling percentage was 57.52%. This was much higher than 49.19% registered in 2010. However, it was less than 59.60% turnout that was registered in the assembly segment in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

It may be mentioned that the BJP, and its allies namely, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Rashtriya Lok Samata Party and HAM respectively fielded 16, 3, 6 and 7 candidates in this region. As evident from the figures, the BJP is contesting only 16 seats in the region and have left an equal number to its allies. Obviously, the second phase is critical for Manjhi as voting for seven of his party’s 21 allotted seats took place during this phase. Considering the hype over his Mahadalit status, indeed there is a pressure on Manjhi to deliver all the seven seats. While his fate is sealed at Imamganj and Makhdumpur, even his son Santosh’s fate is now sealed at Kutumba in Aurangabad district that saw a 48.30% voters’ turnout in the second phase of polling, which though was a slight improvement from 47.81% in 2010 assembly and 48.15% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In the 2010 assembly elections, allies JD(U), RJD and Congress between them got 53% of votes polled against a mere 17.7% for the BJP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP put together. (The RLSP and HAM(S) did not yet exist). Incidentally the JD (U) was a BJP ally then and had won 18 assembly seats in the region while the BJP had then won 9. Will the JD (U) manage to retain or increase its seats after snapping ties with the BJP is to be seen now.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP had performed well and led in 29 of the 32 assembly segments in the region. The RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha, now a Union minister in the National Democratic Front government, and its state president Arun Kumar Singh had then won from Karakat and Jehanabad Lok Sabha seats. However, in terms of combined vote share in 2014 LS polls, the current grand alliance’s 47.4% was well ahead of the 40.5% polled by BJP and RLSP put together. However, then the JD (U) and RJD had not joined hands by then.

From the Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance camp, JD (U), RJD and Congress fielded 13, 13 and 6 candidates, respectively. In 2010, the RJD though had managed to win just 2 seats here while the Congress was unable to open its account even.

Election colours

Some interesting colours, too, were added to polling in second phase particularly in Gaya Town constituency where the BJP nominee Dr. Prem Kumar preferred to go for voting on a bicycle so as “not to disrupt the traffic by a cavalcade of cars and ensure that the voters reach their booth without any disruption”. He was accompanied by his family members.

Politicians using bicycles have always made news. While veteran socialist late Raj Narayan was famous for his bicycle rides to his office when he was a union minister in the Janata Party government in the 1970s, even Lalu Yadav was often found paddling to his office during his first term as CM in the 1990s. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has often used bicycles and in the 2014 general elections had even warned that he would crush his rival K. Chandrasekhar Rao “under the wheels” of his cycle. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav too had led a Samajwadi Party cycle marathon rally on his specially imported bicycle to launch his party’s campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. A strong contender for the CM post in case the BJP wins, will Dr. Kumar show the same fondness for bicycle in case he wins is to be seen.

An interesting feature of the second phase of polling was the setting up of seven all-women ‘model’ polling stations in Gaya constituency where election officials and security personnel came dressed in pink. This was a unique initiative to promote woman empowerment and boost women’s participation in voting. The micro observers, the VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trial) officials, polling agents and security staff were all women. Besides, over the past three days, these stations had been decorated with pink curtains and drapes!

Suspense over PM’s campaigns

Yet, the suspense over prime minister Narendra Modi’s campaign plans in Bihar ubiquitously overshadowed the second round of polling in Bihar on October 16. The Bharatiya Janata Party denied that Modi at all was scheduled to address any rally in the state on the day of second round of polling since the third round of polling was on October 28 and addressing rallies early made no sense. The rival Mahagathbandhan constituent Janata Dal (United) though claimed that Modi had to abruptly cancel three election rallies in Buxar, Hajipur and Paliganj because of the “ineffectiveness” of his rallies.

Whatever be the argument, this is clear though that none other than Modi exploits the archaic election laws for his benefit – inarguably to influence “floating voters” on the polling day. He had done so during the General Elections in 2014. Consider a few:

  • He had released the party’s poll manifesto on the first day of the election (April 7, 2014).
  • He had filed his nominations from Vadodara as well as Varanasi on polling days (April 9 and April 24), making them big media events that in no uncertain way influenced the voters.
  • Taking advantage of the outdated laws, he made a speech outside the 100 metre radius and even posed for a ‘selfie’ holding the BJP election symbol after casting his vote in Vadodara, obviously to influence the voters.
  • Bang in the middle of the final day of polls on May 12, 2014 he had released a video seeking votes, specifically mentioning Varanasi, the seat from which he sought election. Under the Representation of Peoples’ Act, canvassing for votes was supposed to have ended 48 hours before the end of polling. Yet, Modi escaped the EC’s action because the law prohibits campaign activity only in poll-bound areas and the video message was uploaded from Ahmedabad.

Who else than the Mahagathbandhan’s keen political brains – Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Yadav and JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar – would have known better Modi’s penchant for exploiting outdated election rules? Did they deliberately place Modi where he was not at all?  Or was Modi indeed supposed to campaign yet again on a polling day?

It may be pointed out that Modi did campaign on Oct 12, and drew real time media attention when first phase of polling was on in Bihar. This he did after a day ahead of the first phase of polling. The Election Commission dismissed the JD(U)-RJD-Congress petition to restrain Modi from holding rallies in areas going to second phase on the day of the first phase of polling.

The BJP claimed Modi had to campaign on a polling day because the campaigning for the second phase was to end on Oct 14th evening and he was left with no other option than to campaign in the areas going for polls either on October 12 or the following day.

Will Modi cut down his election rallies in Bihar? The question is being asked also because of reports in section of media that the BJP has now decided to shift the focus from PM Modi and party president Amit Shah to state leaders so as to mitigate any prospect of loss of face for the two leaders in case of a loss in Bihar. The BJP though refutes such suggestions and party sources claim Modi needs to be rested since he fasts throughout Navratris and will be back before the next phase of polling in October 28. Does it mean that he will attend the earlier scheduled October 22 rally? Just wait and see as electioneering reaches a crescendo in the five-phased Bihar elections.

 

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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