29/11/2015 1:46 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Bihar 2015: A Close Look At Data Upends Conventional Wisdom

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
PATNA, INDIA - NOVEMBER 8: Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar (C) and Rashtriya Janta Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ashok Choudhary (R), President of the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee, during a press conference after landslide victory in Bihar assembly elections at Nitish Kumar's residence, on November 8, 2015 in Patna, India. Nitish Kumar said, 'I express my gratitude towards people of Bihar, will try our best to match up with their expectations. We respect our opposition in Bihar; want to work in consensus with everyone to develop Bihar. This victory is big win and we will work towards the grand alliances mandate for the development of Bihar.' Lalu Yadav said, 'BJP had its eyes on Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. It wanted to move eastwards. Bihar stopped them in tracks. PM Narendra Modi is nothing but an RSS pracharak.' The grand alliances victory is also attributed to the rejection of communal politics, driven mostly by the recent debate over cow slaughter and consumption of beef. Data from the election commission’s website for 240 of the state’s 243 seats showed the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance led in 178 seats, an emphatic victory over the NDA that could only win around 59 seats. (Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

This is the most extensive research of its kind--we have scanned Caste group of each and every candidate in all 243 Assembly Segments. We marked all candidates from both political fronts and then analysed the voting behaviour among voters of different caste groups when same-caste candidates are fielded by either of the Alliances. This extensive data mining has thrown up some amazing results. It has empirically proven some traditional equations and at the same time disapproved of some age-old traditional equations that have been taken as thumb-rules while analysing the politics of Bihar. To start with; let's observe the voting behaviour of Yadav, Muslim and Kurmi voters in Bihar.

Muslim-Yadav-Kurmi (MYK) vote bank remained intact for the Mahagathbandhan (MGB) regardless of the ticket distribution and regardless of the same-caste candidates fielded by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Belying all apprehensions of disunity and internecine sabotage, MGB's vote bank of MYK not only worked seamlessly but also performed to its full potential. Lalu Yadav mobilized the MY while Nitish Kumar brought K and female voters to the table. Not only did these voters vote for their leaders but they also ensured support for the members of the alliance as well, something that could not be said for the NDA.


In order to gauge the steadfastness of a social coalition, we have compared the community/caste wise vote shares for Muslims, Yadavs and Kurmis when NDA fielded a candidate from the respective community vis-a-vis when MGB fielded a candidate from the same community.

These three major voting blocks which formed the "Core" of MGB vote bank are analysed in two scenarios: First, when NDA fielded the same caste/social group candidate; and Second, when MGB fielded the same caste candidates.


From the tables mentioned above, it becomes amply clear that NDA fielding a Yadav or Kurmi candidate did little to improve its vote share in the given community. In fact, in case of Muslims, we observe that voters polarized even further against the NDA candidate in case he or she were a Muslim!

So the social engineering sought by the masterminds of BJP that fielding Yadav or Kurmi candidate will get them a critical chunk of these vote bank has fallen flat. The Muslims were in any case not voting for the NDA; regardless of the candidate. So the "Core" voter of MGB remained intact in every possible scenario.

But the same doesn't hold true in case of the "Core" votes of BJP/NDA. Especially in case of Brahmin and Bania voters. Amongst the Brahmins, a same-caste candidate when fielded by the MGB led to a nearly 10% rise in alliance (MGB) vote share. Same was true for Bania voters. A same-caste candidate when fielded by the MGB led to a nearly 20% rise in alliance (MGB) vote share. Hence we conclude the MYK as a social coalition was more steadfast and less prone to local factors and leadership issues.


But these election also threw some surprises in gelling social equations. Among the NDA support base, classically speaking the two social bases which never got along well--Rajput and Bhumihar voters--stood rock solid for NDA candidates. Even when a same-caste candidate was fielded by the MGB. There was hardly any deviation in Rajput and Bhumihar voters in their support to NDA.


Those who understand well the social dynamics of Rajput and Bhumihar voters in Bihar politics can vouch for the historical fact that they hardly voted for each other's candidates. But the verdict in 2015 has shown the possibility of the impossible. Yes, the Rajput and Bhumihar voters have voted for NDA candidates even when the caste of the NDA candidate was a conflicting one.


So the data proves that the social dynamics of Rajput and Bhumihar voters in Bihar politics has changed big time. Rajputs have voted for Bhumihar candidates and Bhumihars have voted for the Rajput candidates; as long as the candidate was from BJP camp. And they did not vote for MGB even if they fielded same-caste candidates.

Although a part of MYK social coalition and traditional supporters of Lalu Yadav, this time a never before observed polarisation of Muslims was observable. In 2010 election, Nitish Kumar was able to break away a chunk of Pasmanda and Shia Muslims away from the then RJD+ fold. With Nitish and Lalu joining hands, there was only one way for the Muslims votes to go and that was the Mahagathbandhan's way. Rejecting the claims of MIM and NCP to their votes, Muslim voters were the least attrition section of the electorate.


Amongst all major Muslims sub-groups in Bihar, the common thread barring the Sayeds was that the moment NDA fielded a Muslim candidate, the Muslim voters polarized even further towards the MGB candidate. In the regional analysis one can find that the Muslim consolidation went beyond the 80% plus mark in Bhojpur, Magadh and Mithila, which clearly explains the complete sweep of MGB in these region.


However, interestingly, the lowest consolidation was in the most talked about region of Seemanchal, where this index was at 71%. Approximately 22% Muslim voters in Seemanchal went to some "Other" candidates which explains some split towards other Muslim candidates. But this was of not much use to the NDA as it only meant that NDA was relegated to 3rd position in such seats.

The BJP attempts to polarise the elections on religious lines appears to have failed as the united spectrum of Hindu vote was weaker than the minorities vote. The Upper Caste Hindu vote bank of NDA was not so steadfast in this election. In prior mentioned tables of candidate caste and vote saturation index, it is amply clear that while MYK held rock solid, some section of the upper castes, like Brahmins, did fray on casteist lines. Ironically enough, the backward sections of NDA's vote bank were uniformly polarized in its favour, while the Upper Castes, although polarized in NDA's favour, did suffer some attrition.

But closely look into the leads enjoyed by NDA among "Senior most Voters" of Dalits, Maha Dalits, EBC/MBC and Upper Caste voters and you will realise that the trends emerging from these social blocks is not limited to youth voters alone. This is what confirms the "Ghettoization" of MYK voting block for MGB. This complete "Ghettoization" is opening up the remaining social blocks to a much more inclusive "Rainbow" coalition of NDA.

The "Ghettoization" of MYK block verses the emerging "Rainbow" coalition of Youth, Dalits, EBCs and Maha Dalits is something for the future crystal grazing. Amongst the First-time voters, NDA bested the MGB across all demographics, barring Muslims and Yadavs.

The data reveals that BJP has emerged as the party of aspiration for Dalits, Mahadalits and EBCs, apart from its traditional Upper Caste base. This confirms the "Ghettoization" of MYK voting block for MGB. This exactly is opening up the remaining Social blocks to a much more inclusive "Rainbow" coalition of NDA.


The Composition of MGB and NDA vote bank has a lot to reveal; not only in terms of present election; but also in terms of future prospects. The Composition Analysis reveals that almost 2/3rd out of every 100 MGB voters are coming from their core MYC combination. On the other hand, only about 1/4th out of every 100 NDA voters are coming from their core Upper Caste combination. This also means almost 3/4th of NDA composition is coming from Dalit+MahaDalit+EBC voters, which historically has never been the core constituency of BJP support.

This phenomenon carries significant portents about the future of Bihari polity. We may be witnessing a generational shift of backwards voters into a new form of conservative politics. The macro trends of Dalit voters shifting towards the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha election are now manifesting within the next generation of backwards voters. And the most talked about EBC voters also have shown a clear trend tilting toward the NDA.

Methodology: Master file of entire Exit and Post-Poll survey data (n=70993 in randomly selected 729 polling station across all 243 Assembly segments of Bihar) was weighted on final results of the Election; that too at micro level and regional level. This made the research survey file representative of the actual results reported by ECI. Once the Research file and ECI file became at par; we did reverse engineering to calculate all socio-economic cross-tabulations in order to understand who voted for whom.

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