The Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) has emerged victorious in two of the closest fought battles in the recently concluded general election to the legislative assembly of Bihar. In the constituency of Hilsa, south-east of Bihar's capital of Patna, the JD(U) candidate defeated his rival from the Rashtriya Janata Dal by twelve votes - the smallest margin in the state, according to data from the Election Commission of India. The party also won Barbigha seat with a margin of 113 votes defeating the Congress.
Such close races are one of the hallmarks of a narrowly won race by the National Democratic Alliance, comprising of JD(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The NDA won 125, with no change over their last count in 2015 and retaining power with a slender majority of 3 seats which defied a majority of exit polls. The Mahagathbandhan mainly comprising of the Tejashwi Yadav led RJD, Congress and a left parties won 110 seats, not diminishing their count either, with other parties and independents collectively winning 8. Of this, the Lok Janshakti Party led by Chirag Paswan faced a drubbing, winning only one seat. This time, the LJP contested the election outside the NDA.
Here are the top data points emerging from the election.
1. The closest fights
The lowest margin of the election was seen in Hilsa, where the JD(U)'s Krishnamurari Sharan alias Prem Mukhiya beat Atri Muni alias Shakti Singh Yadav by 12 votes. Sharan garnered 61,848 votes, and Yadav 61,836. In 2015, Yadav won this seat with over 26,000 votes. He was on the defensive on this seat which has emerged as one of the 119 seats where the RJD alleges the winning candidate was denied the winning certificate. They say that Yadav was declared the winner with 543 votes, but EC officials later invalidated the postal ballots to declare Sharan as the winner by 13 votes after intervention from the CM's residence.
The second lowest margin was in Barbhiga, won by Sudarshan Kumar of the JD(U) with a margin of 113 votes, garnering 39,878 votes in all. He beat Gajanand Shahi of the Congress who got 39765 votes. Kumar won the seat on the Congress ticket last time with a margin of 15,717 votes.The RJD alleges malpractices here too.
The RJD's Sudhakar Singh won the seat of Ramgarh by 189 votes, garnering 58,083 and vote share of 32.4%. This seat displayed a close triangular contest, as he beat the Bahujan Samaj Party's Ambika Singh (57,894 votes and a 32.3% share) and the BJP's Ashok Kumar Singh (55,750 votes and a 31.29% vote share).
2. One in five seats won with a margin less than 5000 votes
Another example of how close the race was the margins in a fifth of the seats and the overall vote share between the two camps. Publicly available data shows that 52 of the contested 243 seats were won with a margin of less than 5000 votes.
Moreover, the NDA's margin was only marginally ahead. The NDA's collective vote share was 34.85%, and that of the Mahagathbandhan was 34.07%.
3. The BJP's new role in Bihar
The BJP has become the leading partner within the NDA after this election, displacing the ruling JD(U) as the alliance's largest party. The BJP won 74 seats, up 21 seats from 2015's tally of 53. Meanwhile, the JD(U) has lost 28 seats from 71 to 43. However, both the parties have still maintained a public pledge to keep incumbent Nitish Kumar as chief minister.
The BJP came close to another feat - that of achieving the largest party tag in the state. It has never been single largest party in Bihar and fell only a seat short than the RJD's 75 from gaining it.
4. The Left surges
Three left parties - The Communist Party of India (CPI), the CPI (Marxist Leninst) Liberation and the CPI (Marxist) fought alongside the RJD and Congress as part of the Mahagathbandhan.
Together, they accounted for 16 of the Mahagathbandhan's 110 seats. This is a huge increase over their combined seat total of 3 in 2015. CPI(ML) Liberation is the biggest gainer this seat, gaining 12 seats compared to 1 from last time.
With RJD losing only 5 seats and the Left powering ahead, it was the under-performance of the Congress that kept the Mahagathbandhan down. They lost 27 of the 33 seats where they were in a direct clash with the BJP and won just 19 of the 70 seats they contested statewide.
5. NOTA vs AIMIM, BSP and LJPAsaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Itahedul Muslemeen has won 5 seats and the BSP has won 1 seat despite gaining fewer votes statewide than NOTA (voters who voted for none of the above).
The AIMIM won a vote share of 1.24% (5,23,279 votes) in this election to reap the seats in Muslim-heavy seats in the Seemanchal region in Bihar, in the biggest gain outside the NDA and Mahagathbandhan tents. The BSP won one seat with a 1.49% share (6,28,944 votes). In comparison, NOTA gained a 1.68% share (7,06,252 votes). The LJP was not as fortunate, gaining just one seat despite having a 5.66% share (23,83,457 votes) in a testament to the fact that votes do not always translate into seats in Indian electoral politics.
NOTA has gained more votes than parties like the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Janata Dal (Secular) who also contested the election. But it did not play spoilsport this election like it did in Haryana and Maharashtra last year.