Bihar is the third most populous state of India with 40 Lok Sabha seats, believed to be very active politically over the years. With the announcement of Mahagathbandhan (MG) in Bihar for 2019 general election, the platform is set for a bipolar contest, NDA vs MG. In 2014, the state witnessed a three-corner fight, NDA (BJP, LJP and RLSP) vs JD(U)+ (JD(U) and CPI) vs UPA (RJD, INC and NCP). NDA won 31 seats (BJP – 22, LJP – 6, RLSP – 3) and UPA got 7 seats (RJD – 4, INC – 2, NCP – 1), whereas Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) had to settle with 2 seats only. This time, dynamics have changed a lot. JD(U) joined NDA, whereas Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP switched side to ally with MG. Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM and Mukesh Sahni’s VIP are new entrants in the electoral fray. As all the major parties are contesting under two grand umbrellas, they sacrificed on number seats to contest to improve their strike rates.
For 2019 election, the political parties are contesting as NDA (BJP – 17, JD(U) – 17, LJP – 6) and MG (RJD – 20, INC – 9, RLSP – 5, HAM – 3, VIP – 3). BJP won 22 seats in 2014 but now contesting on 17 seats only to accommodate Nitish Kumar. JD(U) had contested on 38 seats but came down to 17 seats this time. Similarly, RJD and INC also agreed to contest on 20 and 9 seats, whereas they contested on 27 and 12 seats in 2014 respectively. Only RLSP got more seats to contest this time than last time and for that, it has gone with MG. Not only parties, but some high-profile politicians too switched side this time. Shatrughana Sinha, who won Patna Sahib seat on BJP ticket is supposed to contest on Congress ticket this time. Kirti Azad won Darbhanga seat on BJP ticket, has already joined Congress. Tariq Anwar won Katihar seat on NCP ticket, is now in Congress. NDA is hoping to repeat its 2014 performance, whereas MG has been formed to ruin its chances. The 2014 vote share of BJP, JD(U) and LJP collectively is more than 50%. The NDA alliance looks formidable on paper, however, on May 23rd only, we will get to know how they fared with respect to MG.
Bihar is a very interesting story for 2019, as in this state only, Congress is able to form a much-hyped grand alliance till date. I dive into this battleground to predict the number of seats to be won by each side. The performance of a ruling political party is tested in an election. The important parameters are national security, economic development, welfare schemes, and corruption. In different surveys done by media houses, it is shown that a significant proportion of the population is satisfied with the BJP led NDA government. The personal approval rating of PM Modi has consistently been above 50%. There is a wave or not like 2014 in favour of BJP, but one thing is sure that there is no anti-incumbency against the government. And this can be construed upon by the statement of Sharad Pawar, a stalwart opposition leader. He said that he has doubt over Narendra Modi becoming prime minister again, but BJP might be the single largest party in the upcoming election.
However, caste dynamics is an important factor in addition to the performance of a political party. Otherwise, caste-based parties like RJD, LJP, RLSP and VIP would be having no such significance as they have now in politics. The performance metric pushes the boundary in favour of the incumbent party. I have taken electoral data from Election Commission of India and demographics data from Census 2011. I have converted district wise caste and religion data for the state into parliamentary constituencies. And the link is assembly constituencies. I calculated assembly constituency electors to the district total electors’ ratio (x). District wise census data multiplied by x gives the data at the assembly constituency level, which I aggregate at parliamentary constituency level. Finally, I compute the percentage of different caste and religion segments. This would take care of the fact that population has gone up across the state since 2011. I assumed that the population growth across categories is uniform.
The above-mentioned methodology delivers me data at parliamentary constituencies for castes like SCs, STs and religions like Hindu, Muslim, Sikh etc. The proportion of minorities except Muslim is negligible in the state. I don’t include these small minorities segments into my calculation. Kishanganj constituency has the largest Muslim population (55%), whereas Munger has the lowest (6%). SCs constitutes 16% of the state population and Gaya has the maximum (30%). STs population is considerably low in the state (1.2%), Valmiki Nagar got the highest, 6%.
Yadavs among OBC and Muslim are the two important vote banks of MG. Unfortunately, I don’t have data for Yadavs at micro level, but they constitute 14.4% of the state population. I assumed their population to be uniform across the state for further analysis. Although, Yadavs stand firmly behind Lalu Yadav’s RJD, but this is a Lok Sabha election and the prime ministerial candidate is going to be a crucial factor. In the present circumstances, I assume that 20% of Yadavs population would vote for the BJP coalition. 50% of SCs and 60% of STs would vote for NDA. JD(U) and LJP play a crucial role in consolidating votes from these sections. Historically, approximately 10% of Muslim population voted for BJP including 2014 election. Finally, I presume 70% of the rest of the population (Hindu -Yadavs – SCs – STs) would vote for Narendra Modi in Bihar.
I applied this formula on the parliamentary constituency level caste and religion demographics data. And the finding is that NDA is projected to win 32 seats with JD(U) winning 12 seats, BJP getting 14 seats and LJP securing 6 seats. MG is estimated to get 8 seats out of total 40 seats in Bihar. The constituents of MG are yet to decide upon the constituencies, where each party would contest, I am not providing their individual seat shares. Ravi Shankar Prasad is predicted to retain the prestigious seat of Patna Sahib for BJP, whereas MG is projected to keep hold of its stronghold, Katihar and Kishanganj. NDA is envisaged to win Vaishali, which is allotted to LJP.