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India Today-Cicero poll on Bihar has reasons for BJP to worry

Bihar Battle

The Janata Dal (United)-Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Congress alliance in poll-bound Bihar has gained a very slight edge over the BJP-led NDA making it a tight contest, according to the second India Today Group-Cicero Pre-Poll. The first phase of voting will take place on October 12 for the 243-member Bihar Assembly.

The Nitish and Lalu-led Grand Alliance is projected to win 122 seats as against the NDA’s 111 and Others 10 in the 243-member Bihar Assembly,. The BJP, according to the pre-poll survey, is losing its edge among both rural and urban voters, caste groups and even the youth. The first India Today-Cicero Pre-Poll Survey had given the NDA 125 seats and the Grand Alliance 106 seats.

The Nitish and Lalu-led Grand Alliance is projected to win 122 seats as against the NDA’s 111 and Others 10 in the 243-member Bihar Assembly,.  The BJP, according to the pre-poll survey, is losing its edge among both rural and urban voters, caste groups and even the youth. The first India Today-Cicero Pre-Poll Survey had given the NDA 125 seats and the Grand Alliance 106 seats.

 

As far as the vote projection goes, the JD(U)-led alliance is expected to get 41 per cent in this survey as opposed to 40 per cent in September while the NDA has slipped from 42 in September to 39.

Though the BJP has increased its popularity among its traditional voters, the upper castes, it has not been able to breach the Lalu-Nitish bastions: the backward castes, Mahadalits and Muslims.

On the face of it, Bihar may be just another Assembly election in a key Hindi heartland state. The five-phase battle starting next week will not make or break the political fortunes of the BJP at the Centre, nor it is a referendum on the 16-month Narendra Modi government, despite the BJP making sure it is only a vote for Modi and his plank of development.

Modi has led a spirited campaign in Bihar so far, offering to address an unprecedented 40-plus rallies across the state. On Thursday, he addressed four back-to-back rallies and is likely to stay in Patna for the night for more rallies on Friday. But the party is yet to declare a chief ministerial candidate for the state with respondents pretty keen on Sushil Kumar Modi who came second as the most favoured CM behind incumbent Nitish Kumar.

The stakes, however, are higher for former chief minister Lalu Prasad and incumbent Nitish, for whom the Bihar elections are about political relevance and survival, as is reflected in the coming together of two bitter erstwhile rivals.

Lalu, who is out on bail in a fodder scam case, cannot contest elections. His wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi has also lost her appetite for electoral politics after her crushing defeats in two Assembly seats in 2010 and in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The couple has fielded two of his sons in Bihar this year.

Nitish, a former Man Friday of Lalu in the 1980s and early 1990s, later ruled Bihar for almost a decade, with most of it in alliance with the BJP. He broke his 17-year-old alliance with the saffron party in 2013 over the BJP’s decision to field Modi as the PM candidate.

The elections, therefore, for the most popular face of the Janata Dal-United is a way to test whether his gambit paid. His clean image and goodwill among people make him the most acceptable face for the CM post.

The respondents were clear that the Modi government had met expectations with 26 per cent saying it had surpassed expectations while 32 per cent said it had performed as per expectation. But the government at the Centre was held responsible for Bihar’s backwardness with 39 per cent saying so and just 30 per cent attributing it to Nitish Kumar. Modi scored big as the best orator with 44 per cent votes.

The biggest Dalit leader is still Ram Vilas Paswan who pips new NDA find Jitan Ram Manjhi 35 to 26 per cent. With the Owaisi factor contributing to a lot of debate whether it will harm the JD(U)-RJD, 40 per cent of the respondents were clear the Grand Alliance will look after the interests of Muslims and the NDA a distant 31 per cent. Owaisi’s AIMIM got just 2 per cent.

The second instalment of the India Today-Cicero Bihar RCS Tracker Poll (Wave-II) was conducted by Cicero Associates & Consultants Private Limited. Of 243 Assembly constituencies in the state, 81 were covered.