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Summary of Bihar Phase Third Elections

October 29, 2015

The 53.32% voter turnout in the third phase of elections on October 28 was almost three per cent higher than that registered in 2010 assembly elections as well as in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in these districts: Bhojpur, Buxar, Nalanda, Patna, Saran, and Vaishali. However, the turnout in this phase for the 50 assembly seats – highest number of seats going to polls thus far – was still comparatively lesser than the average 55.67% turnout of voters in the first two phases of polling. (57% in first phase and 55% in second phase).

Summary of Bihar Phase-3 Election

Greater Participation of Women

An important feature of Bihar elections this time is larger participation of women in polling. Like in the first two phases, this time too, the women voters outnumbered their male counterparts with 54% women casting their votes as against 52.50% men. Still, even here, the turnout of women voters was less than the average 57.95% in the first two phases.

Among the six districts, Buxar district recorded the highest 56.58% voter turnout in the third phase. This was almost four per cent more than the 2010 figures. Buxar was followed by Vaishali ( 54.82%), Nalanda (54.11%), Bhojpur (53.30 %), Saran (52.50%) and Patna (51.82%). What is significant is that all these districts saw an increase in voting percentage as compared to the 2010 figures. Saran district, which has 10 assembly constituencies, witnessed 0.02% less turnout than what was during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

While fate of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Yadav’s two sons, Tej Pratap and Tejaswi – both contesting their maiden elections from Mahua and Raghopur assembly constituencies respectively – were sealed in the ballot box, much is at stake for the Bharatiya Janata Party BJP that’s contesting 34 of the 50 seats in this phase. Its National Democratic Alliance partners are contesting only 16 seats in this round.

In the last assembly elections, the NDA had swept the polls in the region winning 43 of the 50 seats while the remaining seven had gone to the RJD. But political equations have drastically changed this time. In 2010, the Janata Dal (United), then in alliance with the BJP, had won 23 seats in the region and the BJP had won 20 seats. This time, it will be determined who has the edge in the region following the BJP-JD(U) split. With the JD(U) now a part of the grand alliance or Mahagathbandhan along with the RJD and the Congress, they together have left no stone unturned to campaign vigorously against the BJP-led NDA. In the process, they have targeted the BJP’s poll mascot Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his development plank.

Criticism of PM Modi and BJP’s Defense

The long intervening period between the second and third phase of polling, due to the Navratri festival, saw a slug fest of sorts between the two warring alliances where the Mahagathbandhan was visibly on an offensive targeting the Prime Minister over a plethora of issues that included the unfortunate Dadri killing, reservation issue, as well as the issue of several writers returning their awards in the wake of the alleged assault on freedom of expression and the murder of Kannada writer MM Kalburgi.

The BJP, though on a defensive, has put up a brave front. Dismissing the Mahagathbandhan’s charge that the PM had developed cold feet, Prime Minister Modi is campaigning aggressively and is leading from the front by holding series of rallies in different constituencies, and promising electricity in every village by 2019 and shelter to all by 2022.

Unlike in the first two phases, the BJP seemed to have evolved a specific strategy to counter the Mahagathbandhan’s attack on it over reservation and communal intolerance. It is trying to turn it into an opportunity to consolidate the Hindu votes. Consider Prime Minister Modi’s statement during a recent election rally: “These leaders are making a devious plan. They are conspiring to take away five per cent reservation of dalits, mahadalits, backwards and extremely backwards and give it to a particular community.”

BJP’s Strategy to Woo Extremely Backward Class

As election is gaining steam, the BJP’s strategy to woo voters, particularly the Extremely Backward Class (EBCs), is becoming all too obvious. Just before the second round of elections, at least two prominent BJP leaders – Member of Parliament Manoj Tiwary and ex-Union Minister Syed Shahnawaz – had mentioned the name of prominent EBC leader Dr. Prem Kumar as the party’s choice for the CM’s post (Shahnawaz had later backtracked on his statement). Now, before the third phase of elections, Modi invoked his own EBC status (His caste Ghanchi or Telis fall in the EBC category in Bihar) to the EBC voters – “I come from an extremely backward class and understand the pain of having been born to a poor woman…”

Modi had also sought to dispel confusion over reservation – “The leaders of this ‘Mahaswarth’ (opportunistic) alliance are trying to mislead the people on the issue of reservation … It is clear through the discussion of our constitution makers that reservation cannot be given on the basis of religion. The Supreme Court has said reservation cannot be more than 50%. There is a cap…”, he had said at an election rally in Buxar.

Whether such statements turn into votes is something that is to be seen.

The polling was largely peaceful in the third phase of elections in Bihar in face of large deployment of security personnel and central paramilitary forces (CPMFs) at all polling stations. Five drones were deployed at the Naxal-affected regions that went to polls. In all, 59 anti-social individuals were rounded off and 418 arms were seized.

Voters boycotted polls at four polling centres: Amnaur and Parsa in Saran district, Barh in Patna district and Rajpur (SC) in Buxar district in the third round.

It may be mentioned that fate of 808 candidates, including 71 women, were sealed in the contest during the third phase.

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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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