Various exit polls on Saturday predicted that the Opposition alliance, or the Mahagathbandhan, is likely to have an edge in the Bihar Assembly elections with a razor-thin margin, after a tight race for votes between Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav and incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. None of the polls have given the Lok Janshakti Party significant numbers.

The Times Now-C Voter gave 116 to Kumar’s National Democratic Alliance of Bihar’s 243 seats and a slight lead for the Opposition Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance at 120. Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party is predicted to win only one seat. Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat gave 118-138 seats to the RJD-Congress-Left coalition, and 91-117 seats to the ruling NDA. The channel projected RJD to be the single-largest party. Paswan’s party is likely to win five to eight seats, it said. The ABP-CVoter survey, meanwhile, predicted 104 to 128 seats for Kumar and his allies, 108-131 for the Mahagathbandhan, and four to eight seats for other parties. Any party or coalition needs 122 for a majority in the 243-seat Bihar Assembly.

The exit poll conducted by India Today revealed that Tejashwi Yadav is the most preferred chief ministerial candidate, with 44% of respondents voting in his favour. Thirty-five percent want Kumar to return to power, while Paswan is favourite among only 7% of the respondents.

Majority of young voters surveyed for India Today-Axis My India Exit Poll want Yadav, whereas most senior citizens want Kumar to be at the helm of affairs.

A poll of all the exit polls, put together by news channel NDTV, gave 124 seats to the Grand Alliance and 103 to the NDA. Paswan’s party was projected to win six seats.

Bihar Assembly elections

The third phase voting for the 243-member Bihar Assembly concluded at 6 pm, recording a voter turnout of 55.22%. Voting was held in 78 constituencies in the state where as many as 2.34 crore people are exercising their franchise to elect from 1,204 candidates, who are in the fray in this phase. The elections in the state began on October 28 with nearly 55% turnout across 71 seats, while 94 seats in the second phase recorded over 53% turnout on November 5. Counting of voters will take place on November 10.

In the National Democratic Alliance, Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) was allocated 122 constituencies, making it the larger partner, as the BJP got 121 seats. Out of their quota, the Janata Dal (United) gave seven seats to Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha, while the BJP gave 11 seats to Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party.

In the Mahagathbandhan, Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal fought 144 seats and the Congress and Left parties put up candidates in 70 and 29 seats, respectively. Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party, which split from the ruling alliance, citing “ideological differences” with the Janata Dal (United), contested on 137 seats, including all 122 constituencies where Kumar’s outfit had fielded candidates.

This year’s election in Bihar is largely being seen as a mandate on Kumar and the anti-incumbency he was facing after being at the helm of affairs in the state for 15 years since 2005 – barring a brief period in 2014, when he had given up the chief minister’s chair to his then party compatriot Jitan Ram Manjhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who campaigned profusely in the state, has repeatedly extolled Kumar’s governance, claiming he and the BJP together would usher Bihar into a new phase of development. As campaigning for the third and final phase of the elections drew to a close on Thursday evening, Modi claimed he “needed Nitish Kumar”. Besides, the prime minister has offered competing narratives of corruption and promised development as he criticised the RJD relentlessly with the plank of the possible return of “jungleraj”.

Yadav’s campaign, on the other hand, revolved around the discourse of corruption under Kumar’s rule, focussing on the “common man” and matters like inflation, corruption and unemployment. He has also questioned the incumbent chief minister’s vitality, and called him “tedious, boring and cliche”.