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The ruling JDU-BJP touched the majority mark at around 3 AM after a closely-fought race. The BJP finished with 74 seats and the JDU 43. Two smaller members - former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), and the Vikassheel Insaan Party - won four each. The BJP is now the big brother in its relationship with the JDU - something it has never been and which could impact the choice of Bihar's next chief minister, with some in the party of the opinion that Nitish Kumar can no longer call the shots.
The opposition began the day well, surging into an early lead before being pegged back and overhauled by the NDA. Tejashwi Yadav, whose masterminding of the RJD's campaign announced him as a worthy successor to his father Lalu Yadav's throne, produced an impressive result for his party - with 75 seats, the RJD emerged as the single-largest party. By contrast the Congress, whom many have suggested is at fault for the opposition's failure, flopped (again) and won just 19 of 70 seats; eight fewer than it managed in 2015. The three Left parties claimed 16 seats between them, with 12 going to the CPI (Marxist-Leninist).
Shortly before the results were confirmed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah both tweeted and thanked the people of Bihar for "backing the NDA's development agenda". PM Modi said the NDA would "work for the balanced development of every person, every region" of the state. Mr Shah said: "Every section of Bihar has... backed the NDA's development agenda" and added: "This is a win for the double-engine development of PM Modi and Nitish Kumar".
Late Tuesday night the RJD and the Congress accused Nitish Kumar and his deputy, the BJP's Sushil Modi, of ordering district and election officials to favour the JDU-BJP in close contests; at one point over 100 seats had lead margins of 5,000 or below. The Election Commission, to whom the opposition said it would complain, dismissed such claims and said the results had been delayed only because of additional measures in place during the coronavirus lockdown.
The result leaves Nitish Kumar's dreams of a sixth term as chief minister in the hands of the BJP. In the run-up to the election, and all through campaigning, the party repeatedly said Nitish Kumar would continue in the top job if the NDA retained power, no matter the performance of either party. However, it is no secret that a section of the BJP would prefer to see Nitish Kumar out - and these results give them more ammunition. The JDU has already fired one warning shot - party leader KC Tyagi reminded the BJP of its promise and pointed out that the BJP needed JDU support to form the government.
Campaigning for the Bihar polls was fierce and unrelenting, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and Yogi Adityanath (his UP counterpart) and BJP President JP Nadda among the big names in action for the NDA. For the opposition, Tejashwi Yadav was often the sole voice in attack; Rahul Gandhi addressed a handful of rallies but nobody else from the Congress made an appearance in Bihar.
The election highlighted growing fissures in the JDU-BJP relationship. The apparent distancing triggered opposition barbs, with both Tejashwi Yadav and the LJP's Chirag Paswan pouncing. The BJP's handling of Mr Paswan further infuriated Mr Kumar; the LJP broke away from the NDA to contest independently and relentlessly targeted him. JDU leaders felt this was happening with the BJP's tacit approval because Mr Paswan was seen as an effective counterweight to Nitish Kumar and a way to keep him in check.
Campaign issues focused largely on unemployment, with Mr Yadav's offer of 10 lakh government jobs striking a powerful chord. The claim left Nitish Kumar visibly irritated on numerous occasions, with the Chief Minister hitting out at an "inexperienced" Tejashwi Yadav and making personal remarks about Lalu Yadav. On one occasion Mr Kumar had onions thrown at him. Nevertheless, the jobs gambit was interesting enough that the BJP jumped onboard and promised 19 lakh jobs, much to Nitish Kumar's annoyance.
Apart from the good showing by the Left parties and the eight seats won by smaller NDA allies, the other winner was Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM, which claimed five seats. Mr Owaisi was asked, when it was still feasible for the opposition to form the government, if he would aid in such efforts. He said: "We will decide who to support only after the last vote is counted. We believe in supporting only a truly secular party".
Results of the Bihar election - the country's biggest political exercise amid the coronavirus pandemic - were delayed because of Covid-related restrictions and measures, the Election Commission said Tuesday. These measures included a 63 per cent increase in EVMs and nearly double the number of polling booths - from 65,000 in 2015 to 1.02 lakh this year. The election itself saw other restrictions, including limitations on the number of people allowed at each booth and an extra hour of voting.
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