Nitish Kumar as CM Favourite

All eyes are on Bihar, as political parties and analysts pull out their calculators to work out all possible permutation combinations on poll outcome. As in the run up to any poll, there are several pre-poll surveys taken out by various agencies and the first off the block for Bihar elections has been the ITG-Cicero Poll Pre Poll Survey which has just released its own findings and conclusions.

It must be said here that Pre Poll surveys cannot be taken as absolute and vary from agency to agency. However, let us take a look at some interesting findings from this poll.

Nitish Kumar emerges as the people favourite for CM post

The survey revealed that Nitish Kumar of JD(U) was most preferred as the next Chief Minister by getting maximum support of 29%. In contrast, the BJP’s possible candidate, Sushil Modi, could garner a distant 19% votes. In a reflection of Lalu Prasad’s fall from grace, he could manage just 12% support, while Ram Vilas Paswan ended with an insignificant 7%.

Which alliance is expected to win?

It is interesting to note that while the people are favouring Nitish Kumar as a CM, their choice for overall leadership is favouring the BJP alliance. As per survey, the BJP alliance is expected to win 125 seats (122 is the line for simple majority), while the JD(U) alliance is shown to win 106 seats and remaining 12 going to others.

This seems to be in line with the BJP’s confidence in building upon the Dalit and Mahadalit vote, with the ‘coup’ it engineered in winning ‘left-in-the-lurch’ Jitan Manjhi’s support, which now seems to be tilting the scale in the BJP camp’s favour.

Development will be the deciding factor

When asked what were the positives of the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)+BJP Government, 40% said ‘construction of roads’. This was followed by ‘women’s empowerment’ that got 9% and was followed by ‘better education facilities’ that received 8% votes.

During the Lalu Prasad regime ‘law & order’ or lack of it, was a major issue. In a vote of confidence in the Nitish Kumar government, 7% voted ‘reduction in crime’ as a major achievement. 6% said ‘good governance’ but then this was supposed to be his strong point, wasn’t it? So it is surprising that only 6% attributed ‘good governance’ in Nitish Kumar’s favour.

What were the major reasons for Nitish Kumar’s fall from grace?

According to the survey, 23% people said it was due to ‘slow job growth rate’. This again is a bit surprising since Nitish Kumar has undertaken several development initiatives that resulted in newer jobs being created. But the survey seems to point to the fact that in people’s perception that was not enough.

During the Lalu Prasad era, ‘corruption’ seemed unstoppable and in contrast Nitish Kumar’s government seemed earnest in its fight against corruption. So here again it does come as a surprise that 21% people said ‘inability to curb corruption’ was a reason for Nitish Kumar losing people support.

Again, it was under Lalu Prasad regime when caste based politics was at its peak. So when Nitish Kumar took over, it was expected that he would cut through caste politics and push for development irrespective of caste. While he did do a lot in this regard, 9% still attributed ‘promotion of casteism’ as a failure on part of the Nitish Kumar government. 8% felt it was ‘ignoring farmer concerns’ that caused his eroding support.

Which government did a better job?

This question is important, since Nitish Kumar has led the government with two separate support alliances that have been opposing forces. Therefore, people’s perception of his leadership under both regimes needed to be known. The survey revealed that 40% felt that the Nitish Kumar government under JD(U)+BJP alliance performed better than that under the present dispensation, which earned just 33% support. Another 27% said ‘can’t say’. This feedback is important, as the current polls have people making this comparison and will definitely be a major factor when the voter gives his vote. In fact, this drop in support confirms that while Nitish remains the favoured candidate for CM’s post, his present alliance is not favoured.

Personality comparison between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi

This will surprise many. When asked who is more arrogant between the two, 36% opined Nitish Kumar to be more arrogant, while 30% said that of Narendra Modi. One would have expected the order to be reversed but then that’s what surveys do, they throw up least expected surprises!
How do various ‘castes’ stand in their support of the two camps?
In Bihar, caste has always been a factor in politics and therefore caste support is critical in making or breaking a party or alliance. The survey has tried to gauge the support of various castes for either alliance and the results reflect the current mood.

As expected, 70% of Brahmins support the BJP camp, while 18% support JD(U) alliance. 70% of the Thakur+Rajput community supported the BJP camp, while 20% supported the JD(U) group. 77% of Bhumihars supported the BJP camp, while 16% stayed with JD(U). In similar trends, 52% of the remaining upper castes supported the BJP and 35% remained with JD(U) camp.

The Yadav/Ahir caste is quite large and influential. 62% supported the JD(U) camp, while 37% extended support to the BJP group. Amongst the Kurmi/Koeri community, 42% supported the JD(U), while 34% remained with BJP camp.

Muslims comprise approximately 16% of the population in Bihar and 67% placed their faith in the JD(U) group, while 15% supported the BJP-led alliance. This is on expected lines, as the Muslims have largely remained with JD(U) for several years now.

43% of other OBCs have voted in support of the BJP alliance, while 34% favour JD(U). 49% of the Mahadalits have decided to go with BJP alliance and 33% have stayed with JD(U). 54% of other Dalits have decide to go with BJP camp and 29% confirmed support for JD(U).

The above caste support though critical can change at the time of voting, as the ‘female’ voter support is difficult to gauge and on the other hand, with Mulayam Singh Yadav deciding to go it alone is going to split the Yadav vote. How all this impacts the final equations, remains to be seen. As said before, this is only one pre poll survey and there will be others reflecting contrasting opinions.
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