New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, which is in coalition with the ruling alliance in Bihar, retained control of the eastern state after an election battle that went down to the wire.
The final vote count, which was slowed significantly by COVID-19 protocols, saw the ruling alliance pull ahead with 125 seats in the 243-member state assembly. The opposition grouping, led by the charismatic 31-year-old politician Tejashwi Yadav, won 110 seats.
It was the first test for Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party since the COVID-19 pandemic struck and India went on to become the world's second worst-affected country, with more than 8.5 million infections and an economy experiencing the sharpest dive in decades.
Tejashwi Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats.
won by Tejashwi Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became the second largest party by getting 74 seats - a face changer in the polls - with five-time Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United (JDU) securing 43 seats and other NDA partners Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) winning four seats each.
Of the Grand Alliance 110 seats, RJD's allies Congress won 19 seats and the Left parties secured 16 seats -- the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (Liberation) winning 12, Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist won two seats each.
The remaining seats were divided among Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which won five followed by one seat each by Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). One Independent was also elected.
Modi had been the main campaigner ahead of the polls, with chief minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) party facing an anti-incumbency wave after three straight terms in office. The prime minister inaugurated $5.5 billion in infrastructure projects in the state over just two weeks in September in his efforts to woo voters.
In a tweet sent overnight, Modi thanked the voters of Bihar whose "blessings resulted in this win for democracy once more."
"People have reposed faith on the continued leadership of Modi and his chosen ally and with this Modi regains momentum," said Mahesh Rangarajan, a professor of history at Ashoka University. "Now it will be more a assertive BJP and a stronger ruling coalition. They will look forward to giving tough fights in other state elections."
Bihar is India's poorest state, but with a population larger than any nation in the European Union it sends 40 lawmakers to federal parliament, giving it outsize political importance.
The BJP has been facing tougher-than-expected battles in the state polls that have followed Modi's sweeping victory to a second term in office in May 2019. Its alliance in Maharashtra, India's wealthiest state, fell apart soon after polls there last year. It lost power in Rajasthan and Jharkhand and had to cobble together a new coalition in the northern Haryana state.