Exit polls show Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party falling short of a majority in the crucial eastern state of Bihar, with the opposition alliance predicted to win the most seats after voting closed on Saturday. The final results will be announced Tuesday.
The election is the first test of Modi’s popularity since the pandemic swept the nation of 1.3 billion, which now has the world’s second largest infection tally, trailing only the U.S. A strict nationwide lockdown shuttered the economy which is headed for the worstcontraction among Asia’s largest nations.
Modi was the main face of the ruling coalition during the campaign, and a poor showing could diminish his reputation for riding out political crises without losing capital or credibility. It is also likely to boost the morale of opposition parties looking to exploit disenchantment over rising unemployment and the failing economy.
All five exit polls predicted the opposition grouping was ahead of Modi’s ruling coalition in the 243-member state assembly. Today’s Chanakya, which was most accurate in predicting Modi’s landslide win in the last two general elections, said the alliance — led by Tejashwi Yadav — will sweep the election with 180 seats. Two others predicted clear win for Yadav’s alliance, while rest said his opposition grouping has the edge over the ruling coalition, in which Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is a partner.
Exit polls in India can often be unreliable, especially in massive states like Bihar where a complex mix of caste, religion, and development issues guide voters’ choices.
The 30-year old Yadav — a son of a former chief minister — has sought to win over poorer voters and pushed job creation for those left without a livelihood by the pandemic.
Incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the leader of the Janata Dal (United) party, is seeking a fourth straight electoral victory. Kumar entered an alliance with the BJP after the last state polls in 2015.
Bihar accounts for 40 seats in the 545-member lower house of the federal parliament in New Delhi. A substantial win would have helped the federal ruling coalition to wrest more seats in the upper house of parliament where it lacks a majority, making it easier for Modi to push through economic reforms
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