Bihar polls too close to call as NDA, Grand Alliance lock in neck and neck fight

Mufti Sayeed believed in peaceful resolution of issues: Nitish Kumar

Bihar assembly elections looked too close to call Tuesday night with the ruling NDA maintaining a slender edge over the RJD-led Grand alliance, winning 12 seats and leading in 109 others.

The RJD, the opposition alliance’s spearhead, overtook the BJP at the top of the table, clinching six seats and its nominees leading in 70 others. The BJP has won six seats and is leading in 67.

NDA partner JD(U) has won four seats and is leading in 37 places, in a major slide for the party that had won 71 seats when it fought the 2015 assembly polls in alliance with the RJD. The VIP has won two seats and its candidates are leading in two more, while the HAM has won the Imamganj seat and is leading in two constituencies.

The NDA has won or is leading in 121 seats, just seven more than the Grand Alliance whose partners have won nine seats and are ahead in 105. RJD’s co-traveller, the Congress, has won two seats and its nominees are leading in 18 others, while the CPI-M has pocketed one and is leading in two. CPI-ML candidates are ahead of their rivals in 12 constituencies and CPI in three.

If the current trend continues, the NDA could end up tantalisingly close to the 122 mark required for a simple majority, but there could be many a slip between the cup and the lip with the opposition alliance rapidly closing the gap.

Not only has the RJD edged past the BJP in terms of numbers but also garnered more votes. While the saffron party has polled 19.39 per cent votes, the RJD clinched 23.43 per cent.

Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM is emerging as a surprise package, winning one seat and leading in four others. It had won a seat in a by-election in Bihar earlier, but appears to be making significant inroads in the Seemanchal region which has a large presence of Muslim voters.

Given his pathological aversion to the BJP, Owaisi could be more than willing to lend a helping hand to the Grand alliance if it falls short of a majority by a few seats.

The LJP, down in the dumps itself, appeared to have contributed its bit to the unimpressive showing of the JD(U), damaging its prospects in at least 30 seats, according to the latest trends.

Chirag Paswan’s party, which walked out of the NDA in Bihar just ahead of the poll, is set to fare abysmally as it has neither won nor is leading in any seat despite polling 5.63 per cent of the 2.70 crore votes counted so far.

JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi told PTI in New Delhi that a “sinister” campaign was run against Nitish Kumar as part of a “conspiracy”.

“Apne bhi shamil the aur begane bhi (Our own also harmed us along with the outsiders),” he said, without taking any names. He, however, expressed confidence that Kumar will become the chief minister again, noting that top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have made it clear that he will head the government if the ruling NDA retains power.