Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar (right) with RJD leader Lalu Yadav. PTI photo.
Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar (right) with RJD leader Lalu Yadav. PTI photo.


NEW DELHI — Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a fierce critic of Prime Minister Narenda Modi, and his secular alliance of Janata Dal (U), Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress will have the last laugh in the bitter battle for Bihar after all. In a reversal of early trends, the JDU-led grand alliance is surging ahead of the BJP-led NDA and is leading in more than 140 seats, well above the half-way mark needed for forming the government in Bihar, reported Press Trust of India.

The Nitish Kumar-led grouping is leading in 146 of the 243 seats as counting of votes progressed fast in the five-phased elections that concluded on November 5.

The rival alliance has been projected to get 83 seats and the ‘Others’ eight.

Initial trends on television channels projected the BJP to be in the lead.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

In the last assembly polls in 2010, the JDU had won 115 seats while BJP won in 91 when both parties had an alliance. RJD had got 24 and Congress 5, contesting separately.

Senior minister Shyam Rajak is trailing at Phulwarisharif (reserved SC) seat in Patna district to his HAM rival.

At Imamganj (reserved SC seat) Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM is leading over JD(U) rival Uday Narayan Chaudhary by 3,735 votes.

Though EC trends are not available for two prime seats of Mahua and Raghopur in Vaishali district from where Lalu Prasad’s two sons Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav are fighting, TV channels showed the elder son was leading while the younger son Tejaswi Yadav was trailing in Raghopur.

Counting is in progress at 39 counting centres in 243 counting halls.

A total of 243 observers from Election Commission have been deployed to supervise the counting process.

BJP Moves to Protect Modi From Bihar Fallout

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a a no-holds barred campaign in Bihar, his party is set to lose the election in India’s third-most populous state.  “This is a state election and not a referendum on central leadership or government,” said senior BJP leader and union minister Prakash Javadekar to NDTV.

The PM addressed nearly 30 rallies and promising voters thousands of crores for development in a state with some of India’s highest malnutrition and illiteracy levels.

“If there is defeat at the end of the day, we will accept it… whatever is the mandate, we accept it… I do not believe that any one factor could have led to victory or defeat.  We need time, we will analyze it,” said senior BJP leader and strategist Ram Madhav to NDTV. “Two different elections,” he replied, when asked if the famous “Modi Wave” that swept the 2014 national election is waning. “To expect us not to use our strongest factors (is incorrect),” he said when asked about the Prime Minister’s turn as the star campaigner for Bihar. “We will take lessons from here for the next election,” he said.

“It is the BJP that turned this into a prestige battle for the PM,” said Nitish Kumar, who is running for a third term as Chief Minister. He formed an alliance for this election with his predecessor Lalu Yadav, who has served time in prison for corruption, and the Congress.

Party workers from their coalition were dancing in the street in celebration in the of capital Patna, more than two hours after counting started at 8 am. As the contest tightened in recent weeks, the campaign shifted to bitter issues along religious and caste lines. Exit polls released last week showed the parties running neck and neck, after voting ended on Thursday in the election held in five phases over a month.

After Delhi, this is the second state election which saw the PM leading an unsuccessful campaign for the BJP.

Shiv Sena Rubs It In

As the BJP stared at a defeat in Bihar, its worst since its spectacular victory in the 2014 national election, ally Shiv Sena twisted the knife, praising Nitish Kumar and saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take responsibility for the result.

“When the Congress loses, then it is Sonia ji’s responsibility, similarly the BJP must accept that the Bihar result is Modiji’s responsibility,” said Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.

“If there are elections in Maharashtra now the results will be the same. We are not scared of elections,” he said, in a sharp jab to the BJP.

Mr Raut said his party chief Uddhav Thackeray had congratulated Nitish Kumar, who had emerged as “a political hero” after leading his alliance to victory.

“This is a big win for Nitish Kumar. He has emerged as a political hero,” he said.

Nitish Kumar is one of PM Modi’s sharpest critics and the Bihar polls saw the two going head to head in a bitter war of words; for the BJP, the Sena’s tribute to Nitish Kumar is bound to smart.

Asked whether the Sena appeared to be gloating, Mr Raut told NDTV: “People may enjoy our loss but we don’t enjoy our friend’s loss.”

The Sena, which cogoverns Maharashtra with the BJP, has pulled no punches in targeting its ally publicly.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar of the BJP said the Bihar result would have “no impact on BJP and PM Modi”. He asserted: “State elections are not a referendum on the central government.”

PM Modi addressed nearly 30 rallies in Bihar, which many say is the highest ever by any prime minister in a state election.




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