Dissecting the fine print of Bihar polls

Like I said on Monday, in every defeat there are seeds of victory and in every victory lie the seeds of defeat. And I also said that Nitish’s 2015  victory, like that of Vajpayee in 1999 is built on sand. I tried to support my argument with some data, but of course I did not have access to deep survey level data. Well, I would recommend everyone to read Yashwant Desmukh and Manu Sharma’s analysis in Firstpost:


First of all, I must say that this is in no way intended to console BJP supporters after the disastrous results in Bihar. I’ve said it before. We take defeat on the chin. We eat humble pie. All I am saying is that we should look for the seeds of victory amid the defeat and plant those seeds so that they may grow. Don’t take it as a consolation, take it as a plan for restoration.

So, let’s get to the data. Here is Yashwant’s key conclusion:

Contrary to traditional political punditry the NDA did not hit a social base ceiling as was the case during the Mandal-era. In other words, the social catchment of NDA’s coalition was not deficient, however, it was bested by a better marshalled and organised social coalition of the MGB.

This is what I was saying on Monday when I pointed out that NDA’s voteshare of 34.4% is nearly 20% above the core upper caste voteshare. Whereas the MGB’s voteshare of 42% is merely 7% above their core Muslim-Yadav-Kurmi voteshare of 35%. This means that the NDA managed to attract huge numbers of Dalits, Mahadalits, EBCs and non-Yadav OBCs. If there is one BIG IDEA of the 2014 election, it was the “Mandalization of BJP”: bringing Dalits and lower castes into the BJP fold, partly through Hindutva and partly through tapping into their aspirations. This was symbolized by change right at the TOP, with Modi being the first OBC PM (I am ignoring “by chance PM” Deve Gowda).  There is a huge social churning happening in the Hindi belt and the larger society: the Dalits and OBCs and EBCs are enthusiastically shaking hands with the BJP. At the political level, it shows that the curse of Hindu society, i.e., caste, is no longer as big a barrier to Hindu unity as it used to be.

Here are Yashwant’s words:

only about a quarter of every 100 NDA voters are coming from their core Upper Caste combination. This also means almost three-quarters of the NDA’s composition comes from the Dalit+MahaDalit+EBC voters which historically has never been the core BJP constituency.

Yes, 3/4 of the people who voted for NDA are not upper castes. This in Bihar, the heart of the Mandal belt. No longer upper caste party. Never again. It’s not a Hindu party yet, but not very far. Here is a table from Yashwant and Manu Sharma:


Look at that! Solid leads for NDA among Dalits and Mahadalits and EBCs. But what is very interesting is that the NDA has just begun its march among Dalits and Mahadalits and EBCs. Even though it is grabbing the largest share of these votes, it is nowhere near to the extent Yadavs polarized for MGB. Which means MGB is at peak performance with its 42.1% vote. NDA is far from it. In 2010, the RJD+JDU+Cong polled 50% of the votes and now they have peaked at 42.1%. This concept of saturation is explained by this chart:


What’s the “saturation index”. For instance, Mahadalits are 13.5% of Bihar’s population but 15.5% of the NDA’s votes came from Mahadalits (see the first chart). This means the BJP’s saturation index for Mahadalits is  the ratio 15.5/13.5 which is about 1.15 or 115% as expressed in the chart above. Hence, higher the saturation index, higher the polarization of that caste in favor of the party. In the chart above, you can see saturation index of 182% among Muslims in favor of MGB, showing near total polarization. On the other hand, the BJP has a similar 178% saturation index among upper castes. So upper castes fully polarized for NDA to the extent Muslims did for MGB.

But now we come to the fun part. The saturation index for NDA among Dalits is 142%, almost as high as that of Yadavs for MGB (145%). Yes, Dalits in Bihar support BJP almost as much as Yadavs support Lalu! This is a tremendous number. If this statistic holds across the country, politics will change forever. And if you look at Mahadalits, they are clearly leaning towards NDA with a saturation index of 115% to the MGB’s 67%, but there is a LOT of space for the BJP to grow. With Jeetan Ram Manjhi’s career at its end, this is the space for BJP to expand. Among EBC’s, BJP’s index stands at 127% which in itself is really big. But what is good news is that the BJP has a lot of space to push these caste groups to polarize further in its favor. On the other hand, the MGB has already maxed out its support base of Muslims and Yadavs and has no place left to grow. The MGB is attracting very few swing voters and very few votes outside its caste core. This is the sand Nitish’s victory is built on and this is the quicksand he has to tread.

To see where all of this will go in the days to come, see Yashwant’s third chart:


Whoa! Among first time Dalit voters, the MGB is nowhere in the picture with just 6%. The NDA gets a lion’s share of 56%. What is even better is that a full 37% voted for “others”. These are all voters that can be attracted to Modi, especially in a Lok Sabha poll.

Again, among EBCs first time voters, the BJP gets 50% already and the MGB is simply nowhere at 18%. That leaves another 32% EBCs who voted for “others”. Again these are people that BJP can potentially persuade to not waste votes on local players, especially in LS polls.

On the other hand, the MGB has no place to grow. It’s vote share among first time Yadavs is 61% and its share among older Yadavs is 64%. The numbers are stable and there is no generation gap. All age groups among Yadavs are equally polarized in favor of Lalu. Ditto among Muslims, with slight losses for MGB among younger Muslims! Ouch!

I should repeat that this is not consolation, but restoration. We have to recognize the seeds of victory. And plant them. The fruit will come.




2 thoughts on “Dissecting the fine print of Bihar polls

  1. The seeds of victory, yes, if we recognize the opportunity. We have to unite the Hindus. The Hindus have been disunited by a long term design. The false propaganda against one group of Hindu or another group of Hindu, low, high, caste, class, there is no end. My question is why Pakistani or Afghani tribal are promoted in the film industry when Hindu tribal, Dalits, maha Dalits etc. were not given any chance in any place.


    1. “My question is why Pakistani or Afghani tribal are promoted in the film industry when Hindu tribal, Dalits, maha Dalits etc. were not given any chance in any place.”

      Ha ha ha…superb 🙂


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