Who will rule Bihar for the next five years? The answer will be
known Wednesday when about 30 million votes will be counted
following a six-phased election that was largely violence free and
saw more women than men coming out to exercise their franchise.
The high stakes battle for power over one of India's poorest
states, with a population of 83 million, pitted Chief Minister
Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in alliance with the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Lok
Janshakti Party (LJP) combine of Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan.
The Congress made up the third corner of the electoral contest
with the Left parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) also pitching for power in some
seats of the 243.
The results would have ramifications for the political scenario in
New Delhi where the opposition has trained its guns on the
Congress-led UPA government over allegations of corruption.
Though exit polls predicted a landslide victory for Nitish Kumar's
alliance, Lalu Prasad also exuded confidence that his combine
would come to power. "The exit polls are nothing, it is going to
be proved wrong," he told reporters, flashing the victory sign.
Nitish Kumar played the humble card.
"Whatever is the ruling of the public will be acceptable. We have
tried to focus on making direct contact with the people during the
campaigning and were not running after media like others," the
chief minister said Tuesday.
Counting day should set the record straight.
Officials said the results were expected to be declared by about 2
p.m. Counting of votes in the 243 assembly constituencies will
begin at 8 a.m. and first trends would be available between 9 a.m.
and 10 a.m., sources in the Bihar chief electoral officer's office
"The electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all the constituencies
will be opened for the counting amid tight security and under
constant vigil of Election Commission officials," an official told
"We have made elaborate security arrangements to prevent any
untoward incident," Bihar police chief Neelmani said, adding that
all six phases had passed peacefully except for stray incidents of
According to the Election Commission, an estimated 52.43 percent
votes were polled to decide the fate of 3,523 candidates who
contested the elections that began Oct 21. Over 55 million voters
were eligible to exercise their franchise.
Of the 3,523 contestants, 308 were women. National and regional
parties fielded 1,225 candidates. While 1,342 contested as
Independents, 956 candidates had been fielded by unrecognised
The Congress was the only party to contest all 243 seats as it was
fighting the elections on its own. The BSP contested 239 seats. In
the ruling NDA, the BJP fought 102 seats and the JD-U 141. The RJD
and its ally LJP contested 168 and 75 seats respectively.
In a remarkable development, Bihar witnessed record turnout of
women in all the six phases. According to an Election Commission
report, the overall percentage of women votes was 54.85 percent
compared to 50.70 percent for men.
In nine of Bihar's 38 districts, the turnout of women voters was
over 60 percent while women outnumbered men in the 23 remaining
"This was a positive sign for democracy as well as for society
because the high percentage of women votes suggest that they voted
as per their choice," said Prof Ajay Kumar Jha, a socio-political
analyst of the A.N. Sinha Institute here.
According to political analysts, this was the first time that the
development plank dominated. While Nitish Kumar appealed for
another terms to finish the development work initiated by him,
Lalu Prasad promised voters he would develop Bihar like the Indian
Railways, a portfolio he once had as a cabinet minister in the
first UPA government.
In the last election, the BJP got 55 seats and the JD-U 87. The
RJD bagged 54 and the LJP 11 seats. The Congress could manage only