Bihar paradox: polls divided, but Nitish favourite for CM

Opinion polls show Prime Minister Narendra Modi's National Democratic Alliance faces a close election battle in the country's third-most populous state, Bihar, where election dates were announced on Wednesday.

The Bihar polls are considered a critical indicator of the NDA's nationwide popularity, and a loss would dent Modi's chances of consolidating power.

The India Today Group (ITG)-Cicero pre-poll survey has predicted that the BJP-led alliance in Bihar will win simple majority. According to the survey, the BJP-led alliance will win 125 seats, thus crossing the 122 mark which is required to win a simple majority in the 243-member state assembly.

The JD (U)-RJD-Congress 'grand alliance', according to the survey, will win 106 seats. Other parties will win a total of 12 seats, the survey added.

The survey also said that the BJP-led alliance, including the LJP, RLSP and HAM, will win 42 per cent of the total votes while the JD(U)-led alliance will win 40 per cent.

The survey predicted that even though the most-favoured choice for the post of Bihar Chief Minister was Nitish Kumar, the people of the state wanted a BJP-led alliance government.

Victory in Bihar's assembly election would help Modi build his party's strength in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, where its lack of a majority has allowed the Opposition to block economic reforms he sees as vital for jobs and growth.

Another opinion poll taken by India TV channel said that the mahagathbandhan or grand alliance is projected to win between 116 and 132 seats in the Assembly.

According to the poll India TV poll conducted by C-Voter, the BJP-led combine is projected to win between 94 and 110 seats. On the question of who is the best chief minister, a whopping 53 per cent of respondents favoured incumbent Nitish Kumar, while only 18 per cent preferred BJP leader Sushil Modi and only 5 per cent preferred Lalu Prasad Yadav or Shatrughan Sinha.

Percentage wise, the Lalu-Nitish-Congress combine is projected to win 43 per cent of the votes, while the BJP-led combine is projected to win 40 per cent of the votes. 17 per cent went to 'others'.

C-Voter said the projections were based on a methodology based on random stratified sample of 10,683 interviews covering all the Assembly constituencies during the last week of August and the first week of September. The margin of error is plus/minus 3 three per cent at the state level and plus/minus 5 per cent at the regional level.

In the 2010 Assembly elections, JD(U) and BJP had won 206 seats by going together in an alliance while Lalu Prasad's RJD-led alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan could win only 25 seats.

However, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA comprising BJP, Paswan LJP and Upendra Kushwaha's RLSP won in 174 Assembly segments. The Lalu-Nitish combine could win only in 51 Assembly segments in the face of Modi wave.