Put it to the vagaries of the first-past-the post system but the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal(U)-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, which pulled off an incredible, winner-take-all four-fifths majority in the recent Bihar election, secured a vote share of only 39 per cent — just a three percentage point improvement over what it polled in October 2005.
The ruling alliance won 206 seats, leaving the combined Opposition clutching at all of 37 seats in a House of 243. What is striking, however, is the mismatch between the superhero size of the JD(U)-BJP combine's mandate and its vote share. Consider the seat and vote statistics compiled by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). JD(U)-BJP: 206 seats for 39 per cent; Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party: 25 seats for 25.59 per cent; Congress: four seats for 8.38 per cent; Communist Party of India: one seat for 1.69 per cent and Communist Party of India (Marxist): no seats for 0.71 per cent. The JD(U) polled 22.61 per cent to the BJP's 16.46 per cent.
These figures ought to comfort Lalu Prasad and warn his opponents against prematurely writing him off. In the October 2005 election, which the RJD fought jointly with the Congress, the two parties together won 63 seats for a combined vote share of 29.54 per cent. The RJD's share of votes in this was 23.45 per cent, which establishes a vote erosion in the current election of around 4.5 percentage points. In the same election, the JD (U) and the BJP polled 20.46 per cent and 15.65 per cent respectively.
Of course, there can be no taking away from Nitish Kumar's sterling performance. Indeed, as the respective vote shares of the parties clearly establish, even a united Opposition was not in a position to topple the ruling alliance. The combined vote share of the RJD, the LJP and the Congress is 34 per cent. Add the Left parties, and the vote share increases marginally to 36.40 per cent — still some distance behind the 39 per cent jointly polled by the JD(U) and the BJP.
The JD (U) and the BJP outperformed their principal opponents, the RJD and the LJP in every region of the State. The former had a lead of over 10 percentage points in all but one region, Mithila, where the RJD-LJP polled 27.5 per cent to the JD (U)-BJP's 36 per cent. The region-wise comparative shares of the rivals: Ang: JD(U)-BJP 37.7 per cent and RJD-LJP 26.50 per cent; Koshi: JD(U)-BJP 39.8 per and RJD-LJP 22 per cent; Mithila: JD(U)-BJP 36 per cent and RJD-LJP 27.5 per cent; Tirhut: JD(U)-BJP 38.5 per cent and RJD-LJP 24 per cent; Bhojpur: JD(U)-BJP 37.5 per cent and RJD-LJP 25.9 per cent; Magadh: JD(U)-BJP 43.9 per cent and RJD-LJP 28.1 per cent.