Tejashwi Yadav, who failed to dislodge the Nitish Kumar-BJP government in Bihar but managed to take his party to single-largest status with a high-voltage campaign, said today that the mandate was in his favour and he was the winner even if someone else was in the Chief Minister's chair.
The opposition leader also alleged fraud in the counting of postal ballots and demanded a recount, flagging narrow margins in 20 seats.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar used money, muscle power and trickery but could not stop this 31-year-old. They could not stop the RJD from becoming the single-largest party," Tejashwi Yadav told reporters.
"See where Nitish Kumar's glow has gone. He has been pushed to third position. This is a mandate for change. Nitish Kumar is sitting in the Chief Minister's chair but we are in people's hearts," said the RJD leader, who was the opposition's chief ministerial candidate.
Tejashwi Yadav also wondered whether Nitish Kumar would "heed his conscience and give up his attachment to the chair". It was seen to refer to Nitish Kumar resigning and dumping the RJD and Congress before returning to the BJP-led alliance in 2017 after Tejashwi Yadav's name had cropped up in a corruption case. The Chief Minister had then said he was stepping down after heeding his conscience (atma ki awaaz).
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) retained power in Bihar with the BJP's 74 seats taking the alliance past the majority mark of 122 in the 243-member Bihar assembly.
But Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United won only 43 seats and placed third, with Tejashwi Yadav's RJD or Rashtriya Janata Dal emerging as the largest party with 75 seats.
Tejashwi Yadav demanded a recount of Bihar votes, flagging razor thin margins of defeat for his candidates. He also questioned why postal ballots were not counted in the beginning and alleged that they were declared invalid in many seats.
"The mandate was for the Mahagathbandhan. The Chief Minister wants to come in from the chor darwaza (back door)," the former Deputy Chief Minister said.
Multiple exit polls had predicted Tejashwi Yadav's victory in these polls but the Nitish Kumar bucked anti-incumbency to win a fourth straight term.
"I demand that the ballots declared invalid be produced," said Tejashwi Yadav.
Only 84,900 votes helped the NDA, shows data from the Election Commission. The overall difference in votes polled by the ruling alliance and the opposition was just 0.2 per cent, data shows.