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Bihar verdict: Nitish's good work winner, Lalu success on alliance steam


The Bihar poll mandate is an endorsement of the state's incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's performance, even as it marks RJD chief Lalu Prasad's return to the political mainstream. RJD has surged past alliance partner JD-U in terms of vote share, but observers point out that Lalu may have reaped the benefits of being a part of the combine led by Nitish. "Politics of caste has been superceded by politics of hope and delivery. Hope and delivery was very high with Nitish Kumar as a chief minister. Since 2007, all chief ministers who were seen as performing were voted back," BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal conceded while speaking
to media.

The Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance comprising Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress won 178 seats in the 243-member house even as National Democratic Alliance (Bharatiya Janata Party, Lok Janshakti Party, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha) won just 58 seats. Even as Nitish Kumar took a backseat at the press conference in Patna, letting "bade bhaiyya" Lalu Prasad hold forth, political observers reminded that voters have cast their mandate in favour of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), so RJD winning more seats was not the only decisive factor. The BJP that started on a developmental agenda faltered and got caught up in the semantics of state's complicated caste and religious equations.

The BJP's chief campaigners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah failed to work their magic on the voters of the eastern state despite speeches high on firepower, polarising statements and the promise of a Rs 1.25 lakh crore economic package. BJP leaders admitted that this strategy did not work as it did not have a strong candidate to counter Nitish Kumar's record of performance. The Lalu Prasad-Nitish Kumar combine stole the show with canny political strategy, keeping their differences aside to ensure that the Modi-Amit Shah-led BJP did not "split the secular vote". Both contested from 101 seats each, dividing even the daily campaign work evenly. "Both Nitish and Lalu addressed 9 to ten political meetings every day and at the end of the meeting they would announce the other's schedule and the next meeting in the neighbourhood. They managed to cover quite a lot of ground like that," said a political observer associated with the JD-U.

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