The Bihar elections is like a cricket match between two strong teams. One, NDA captained by BJP (Modi / Shah) and two Janata alliance (Maha Gathbandhan) captained by JDU (Nitish). Paswan (LJP) and Lalu (RJD) are the vice captains of the respective teams. (I am sure Lalu will not be happy reading this.) Like any team both consist of players who are:

1. Past their peak / prime but getting a place because of their historical performances (Congress),
2. Old horse coming back to form (Lalu’s RJD),
3. All-rounders like Paswan’s LJP (who have played on all sorts of pitches)
4. Newbies like Kushwaha’s RLSP (who have had T20 like fame winning 3/3 seats in Lok Sabha), and
5. Debutants / surprise package like (Manjhi’s HAM).

A lot has been written about these elections and various pundits have had different take on who is going to win Bihar (including the under signed). In these elections fortunes have been swinging like a pendulum as Dr.Patil (of 5Forty3 fame) puts it. The earliest opinion poll showed Janata alliance having an upper hand. Same agency by the time Phase 1 approached said NDA would win (ABP News-Nielsen). Two agencies changed their call within one month span of Sep-Oct 2015 (C Voter & Cicero). So net net everybody is as confused and nobody has a clue.

Think of the precarious situation of the voter – some like Nitish (development) but don’t like Lalu (fodder scam convicted) – what to do, whom to vote for. Similarly, some like BJP (development) but not its allies Paswan, Manjhi and Kushwaha (only indulged in caste politics). Some like Lalu (Yadavs) but not Nitish as their influence greatly diminished during Nitish tenure.
Things have been further complicated as both Janata alliance and NDA have put up same caste candidates in many seats. For example, both alliances fielded upper caste candidates in 6/32 seats in Phase 2. In the end it may well boil down to which two parties are pitted against each other in any constituency and what is the ‘Toughness Index’ of the seat from each party’s point of view.

Bihar Elections Matrix: Seats contested by each party

Party JDU RJD INC  Total
BJP 58 74 28 160
LJP (Paswan) 23 9 8 40
RLSP (Kushwaha) 8 11 4 23
HAM (Manjhi) 12 7 1 20
Total 101 101 41 243

The intensity of contest (defined as Toughness index) in each seat can be broken down into (i) Tough (ii) Moderately Tough and (iii) Easy.

From BJP point of view:

1. BJP vs JDU contests are “Tough” – These are Modi vs Nitish contests. While Nitish is the most popular CM face in Bihar, people across India are very satisfied with Modi govt. performance. While All India Satisfaction score for Modi is 61%, it is a bit lower in Bihar at 58% (Source: TOI-Ipsos Poll). The net likeability score of Nitish is 45% for Nitish versus 44% for Modi (Source: Lokniti-CSDS Poll). These are the star contests versus two captains. BJP strong batsman facing JDU economical / wicket taking bowlers or vice-a-versa in 58 seats.

2. BJP vs RJD contests are “Moderately Tough” – There contests are; development vs jungle raj part 2; as pitched by BJP. Voters who still have vivid memories of 1990-2005 jungle raj part 1 would not vote for Lalu. However, Lalu has a strong vote bank of MY (Muslim-Yadav). MY account for 30% of Bihar population. RJD received 64% votes of MY votes in 2014 LS polls. This translates into a solid vote share of 19%. People thinking why Nitish tied up with Lalu. Precisely because of this reason. BJP and RJD are facing each other in 74 seats. The captain (BJP) vs old horse (RJD) who has been out of form but was seen coming back to form in LS polls is a riveting contest.

3. BJP vs INC contests are “Easy” – Congress party’s fortunes have been dwindling in the Hindi belt after the mandal & kamandal movement in late 1980’s / early 1990s. These contests are between star batsmen of BJP and dibbly dobly bowlers of Congress. They are expected to be cobbled all over the park. The Congress batsmen are like tail-enders / ferrets who would be easily snapped by strong bowlers of BJP. BJP is contesting against 28 Congress candidates.

From JDU point of view:

1. JDU vs BJP contests are “Tough” – These are Nitish vs Modi contests. There is an acrimonious history between these two leaders. They have been mocking each other and left no stone unturned to degrade the other. It is a fight of prestige for both JDU and BJP. As stated above these are star contests versus two captains. JDU strong batsman facing BJP strong bowler and vice-a-versa.

2. JDU vs HAM contests are “Moderately Tough” – There contests for JDU are with rebels who were earlier in JDU and now floated a new party HAM under Manjhi. In many cases HAM has given ticket to sitting MLAs won on JDU ticket in 2010. Mahadalits are not happy with the way JDU treated former Manjhi (at least this is the theory) and this fact has made the contest very interesting. JDU is contesting against HAM in 12 seats. JDU batsmen are likely to face ‘googly’ from HAM bowlers. JDU bowlers could also face cameos by HAM batsmen.

3. JDU vs LJP & RLSP contests are “Easy” – These are easy contests for JDU. Though LJP players are all-rounders and have played on all sorts of pitches, this elections (pitch) needs specialist players and they are likely to struggle against JDU strong batsmen and bowlers.

Additionally, RLSP is like a minnow against JDU. Though it made a sparkling T20 like debut, Kushwaha is not the undisputed leader of Koeris. State polls are like One Day internationals not T20 and RLSP pinch hitters likely to struggle against seasoned JDU bowlers. RLSP bowlers don’t have the stamina to bowl 10 overs and will be hit all over the park by JDU star batsmen.

From RJD point of view:

Similarly, RJD vs BJP contests are “Tough”. RJD batsmen and bowlers (vice-captain) facing BJP bowlers and batsmen (captain). RJD vs HAM & LJP contests are “Moderately Tough”. RJD batsmen could face HAM googlies and its bowlers have to be awry of cameos from HAM batsmen. LJP (old partners) all-rounders know the strengths and weaknesses of RJD players and hence the contest will be interesting.  RJD vs RLSP contests are “Easy”. RJD team is expected to thrash the inexperienced Kushwaha’s team.

Congress faces tough fight against BJP for reasons stated above. However their tail ender batsmen and average bowlers are expected to have moderately tough fight against all-rounder LJP, newbie HAM and T20 stars of RLSP.

What does this exhibit? 
1. BJP has tough fight in 36%, moderately tough fight in 46% and easy fight in 18% of the seats.
2. JDU has a tough fight in 57%, moderately tough fight in 12% and easy fight in 31% of the seats.
3. RJD has tough fight in 73%, moderately tough fight in 16% and easy fight in 11% of the seats.
4. NDA allies have a tough fight in majority of the seats they are contesting (>50%) – LJP 58%, RLSP 83% and HAM 60%. On a combined basis it works out to be 65 / 83 seats they are contesting.
5. Congress has a tough fight in 68% of its seats.

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Conclusion
1. Both teams face similar number of tough and moderately tough contests – 215 of NDA vs 224 of Janata alliance.
2. Whichever team wins majority of these seats win get the cup?
3. Both teams have to win maximum number of easy matches to strengthen their position and guard against over confidence.
4. Both teams suffering from weaker players – Congress / RLSP.
5. Both captains / vice captains have acted smartly and picked up majority of the easy contests.

The Bihar elections poised to be a thriller. It will keep all political analysts guessing and creating new theories. In the end, yeh jo public hai yeh sab jaanti hai. May the best team win….

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