With headlines such as “Modi hits a six for Nitish in thriller”, Indian newspapers on Wednesday focused on the close contest in the Bihar Assembly elections as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance returned to power. Most of them noted that Nitish Kumar now has less bargaining power with the BJP as the Janata Dal (United) managed to win only 43 seats out of the 115 it contested.

The reportage also focused on the performance of the Left parties in the Assembly elections. The Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) secured two seats each, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation) won 12 out of the 19 it contested.

The Opposition’s Grand Alliance or Mahagathbandhan put up a strong fight in the contest, but
fell short of the majority mark. The Rashtriya Janata Dal bagged 75 seats and emerged as the single largest party in the Bihar Assembly despite the loss. The Congress managed to win only 19 of the 70 seats it contested.

The Telegraph went with “NDA claims crown; stellar RJD fight” and “BJP trumps ally” as headlines. The newspaper also carried a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with outgoing United States President Donald Trump, taking a swipe at Nitish Kumar. In the picture, Trump asks Modi “How’s it going buddy”, to which the prime minister responds: “Better than Nitish, my friend”.

The Indian Express called the NDA the “Nitish Dented Alliance” in its headline and juxtaposed images of BJP workers and RJD supporters celebrating. “He is no more the shining sadak-bridge-cycle-for-schoolgirls hero of 2010 who restored the authority to the state,” an article said. “The Nitish Kumar of 2020 is the chief minister to whom the people are not giving the benefit of every doubt because of his supposed good intent. Today, he is the leader they are talking back to.”

The newspaper also focused on Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, which pulled out of the NDA in October and contested from 137 seats, but managed to win just one seat. It said, citing political observers, that Paswan has completed the “assignment” of damaging the JD(U) by contesting against it.

The Times of India, while focusing on the NDA’s Bihar win, also highlighted in its front page that the saffron party managed to secure 41 out of the 59 bye-poll seats in seven other states. “A Narendra Modi-fired NDA was on the course to claw out a slender win in Bihar, beating back a spirited challenge from Tejashwi Yadav,” the newspaper’s lead said.

Meanwhile, the Hindustan Times blared in capital letters: “BJP GIVES BIHAR TO NITISH”. The newspaper said the mandate given by Bihar’s electorate both marked a continuity and change, referring to the less-than-stellar performance of Nitish Kumar’s party.

The Hindu, however, went with a simple headline: “NDA has clear edge in tough Bihar fight”. It carried the same celebratory image as The Times of India and Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, Hindi newspapers Amar Ujala, Jansatta, Rajasthan Patrika focused on the upper hand gained by BJP over alliance partner JD(U).

Tamil daily Dinakaran said the BJP-led coalition was ahead in Bihar, while the strap read, “nail-biting contest as results changed every other minute”. It also focused the tough fight put up by Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD in the elections.