The BJP appeared set to leave its ally JD(U) far behind in the seat tally in the Bihar assembly elections, emerging as the senior partner in the alliance for the first time in about two decades. The saffron party was leading or had won in 73 seats in the 243-member assembly, while the corresponding figure for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led party was merely 41, according to the Election Commission figures at 7.50 pm. The development can change the power dynamics within the ruling alliance, even if it manages to retain power in the state and Kumar continues to be chief minister.
The EC trends showed that the contest between the NDA and the RJD-led grand alliance was turning out to be a nail-biter with the two contestants to the power leading in 122 and 113 seats respectively, as per the latest trends. Political watchers believe that the BJP after playing the second fiddle in the alliance since it came to power in 2005 will now be more assertive in pushing its agenda.
All eyes will be on Kumar, who has never shown any particular liking for its ally's Hindutva push, as to how he responds to the bitterly changed realities for his party which had won 71 seats in 2015 as part of an anti-BJP alliance before he switched sides in 2017.
He had broken his 17-year old alliance with the BJP in 2013 over the elevation of Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate by the saffron party.
As Modi led the NDA to a huge victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls while the Bihar chief minister's differences grew with the RJD, it prompted Kumar to join hands with the BJP.
In the 2010 assembly polls, when the JD(U) and the BJP were together, they had won 115 and 91 seats respectively. The corresponding figures in the October 2005 polls were 88 and 55.
In February 2005 polls, which had thrown up a hung assembly, the JD(U) had won 55 and the BJP 37.
The BJP had won more seats than Kumar-headed Samata Party in the 2000 polls by pocketing 67 seats while its ally got 34. Jharkhand was then part of Bihar. The Samata Party had later merged with the JD(U).
The JD(U) has been hit hard in these polls by Chirag Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party, which is likely to be instrumental in its defeat in more than 30 seats.
The LJP was, however, struggling to retain its tally of two seats with the EC data showing that it was not leading or had won in even a single seat.