A number of exit polls gave the Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan the edge in Bihar assembly elections that concluded this evening. At least two forecasters said the opposing BJP-led alliance will win convincingly. This means all eyes are now on Sunday, when the actual results will be known.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) has allied with long-time rival Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress Party to form the so-called Grand Alliance, which has fought tooth and nail through a long and bitter campaign season in what is a make or break election for many on both sides of the political divide.
They are contesting for 243 seats in the Bihar Assembly Legislature.
On Thursday evening, Lalu Prasad was quick to claim victory, saying the grand alliance will win 190 seats. He turned uncharacteristically poetic, speaking to reporters in Patna: "All is well that ends well."
A loss for BJP will come as a dampener to the winning combination of Prime Minister Modi's star power and party president Amit Shah's fabled electioneering skills. A repeat after its catastrophic loss in the Delhi Assembly elections earlier this year, and ahead of the state elections in Uttar Pradesh scheduled for 2017, will weaken their absolute domination of the party.
A loss in Bihar will also raise questions about the popularity of the Prime Minister, who rose to power in 2014 with an unprecedented majority in more than three decades. He has been the face of BJP's campaign in Bihar, addressing dozens of rallies across the state in the past few months.
Not only will a loss for the Grand Alliance be embarrassing for Kumar and Yadav, who have railed against “outsiders” coming to power, but it will also banish the two regional leaders into political wilderness for the next few years. It will be humiliating in particular to Kumar, who parted ways with the BJP ahead of general elections last year over differences about Modi's rise within the party.
It was a very different scene in the 2010 Bihar State Election, when a BJP and JD(U) alliance came to power, and JD(U) and RJD contested against each other.
Loss or victory also boils down to prestige for all three leaders who flexed all their political muscle in a a bitter battle which has seen unprecedented personal attacks and communal vitriol.
Also on HuffPost: