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Challenges galore for LJP

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Chirag faces several challenges. An important challenge to be noted here is the presence of Jitan Ram Manjhi, the leader of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) who broke away from the Opposition months before the Assembly polls and joined the Janata Dal (United) and became a part of the NDA. Following Chirag’s open criticism of the Nitish Kumar government and their failure to ensure development for Dalits across the state, Manjhi’s induction into the NDA was seen as a direct attempt by the NDA to create a Dalit front. Manjhi has directly attacked both the LJP and the Paswan leaders, and is seen by many as a new Dalit figurehead for the NDA. Given the submissive role of Manjhi in the NDA alliance, it could be said that he would prove to be a much more co-operative ally for the NDA. Looking back historically, Ram Vilas Paswan has always had a clear electoral strategy in place. However, Chirag’s decision to go against JD(U) in the state elections, while continuing to stay in the NDA at the Centre is likely to cause confusion for any voters. Such a political strategy could backfire in securing votes for the LJP as voters would be generally unclear about the post-poll scenario and which party the LJP would support. Although Chirag Paswan was elected President of the LJP in November 2019 and has had time on his hands to learn the inner workings of the party and consolidate his position inside the party, it still remains to be seen whether the JD(U) and Nitish Kumar consider him to be an challenging opponent. In the past few years despite a fall in the vote share, Ram Vilas Paswan’s crosscutting popularity and stature has sustained the party’s prominence in Bihar politics. After his demise, it is up to Chirag Paswan to carry forward his father’s legacy and create an ideal situation where the LJP will be considered as an electorally game changing ally.

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Statistically Speaking

How did Indian-Americans vote?

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While exit polling data is not available for Indian-American voting patterns for the 2020 election, as per the Indian American Attitudes Survey (IAAS)—conducted between September 1 and September 20, 2020 (which surveyed a nationally representative online survey of Indian American citizens) 72% of registered Indian American voters had planned to vote for Biden and 22% had planned to vote for Trump. Although it is estimated that Indian Americans comprise 1% of all registered voters in the United States, in the run up to the 2020 elections, we saw both parties attempting to woo Indian American voters. While Biden’s campaign issued a manifesto aimed at Indian American voters, Trump’s campaign released an online campaign containing images of Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi together at a rally in Houston in 2019. Experts also said they think a part of the Indian-American vote bank which usually goes to Donald Trump swung to democrats due to their choice of an Indian-American running mate.

The survey also revealed that Indian Americans do not think Indo-American relations are one of the most important factors affecting their voting choice. National issues of importance such as healthcare and economy are the most important issues influencing their vote. When looking at the demographics breakdown of the survey we observe that overall Indians of all religious faiths said they would vote for Biden to Trump. However, it is interesting to note that 82% of Indian Muslims said they would support Biden as compared to only 67% of Indian Hindus and 49% Indian Christians. Additionally, dissimilar to the national trend, there is almost no gender gap in the support for Trump and Biden amongst American Indians. 69% of women and 68% of men said they would support Biden, while 19% of women and 24% of men said they would vote for Trump.

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Statistically Speaking

How did different demographics vote?

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The Presidential Election saw a huge voter turnout in decades even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the country. The voter turnout rate (estimated) was around 66.4%, the highest since 1990 and much higher than that recorded in 2016 (60.1%). In fact, Biden received more than 75 million votes, which are higher than any other candidate in US electoral history. There was a huge surge in youth voter turnout of around 10% in the country.

As per the Exit Polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC), we will explore the changes in support for the Republican and Democratic party in 2020 as compared to 2016. When examining the support for both candidates by race, we observe that while Trump still had the support of 49% of white men, this was considerably lesser than in 2016. Trump’s base of core voters is white men (without college degrees), and while he won the group again, it was by a much smaller margin.

It should also be noted that many experts suggest that the reason Biden was unable to perform better than the President in several states is that he underperformed when compared to 2016 Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton among voters of colour. While Biden was able to win their support, it was by smaller margins than Clinton.

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Statistically Speaking

How did the swing states vote?

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Swing or battleground states in the United States election refer to highly competitive states which historically “swing” between voting for different political parties in presidential elections. Out of the 50 states in the US, 38 vote consistently for the same party (2000-2016). In the United States unlike other countries where governments are elected on a basis of popular votes, a system called the electoral college is used. The electoral college is a body of delegates from each US state, and when any American casts a vote, they are actually voting for who their state will vote for. Perhaps the most important thing to note about the electoral college is that the candidate with the highest number of votes in a state claims all the electoral votes of the state. Due to the electoral college system present in the United States, states are the most important jurisdictional unit in voting.

The electoral college nearly always operates with a winner-takes-all system, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes in a state claims all of that state’s electoral votes.

Because of this, swing states receive a lot of attention from political parties, candidates and political analysts as often they play the most important role in determining the result of an election.

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump secured his victory by winning 6 out of the 10 most competitive swing states. In 2020, as per most pollsters, the swing or battleground states were likely to be Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Out of these states, as per the Cook Political Report Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and North Carolina would be the most important in determining who wins the 2020 presidential race.

With 15 electoral votes, the state of North Carolina was historically a Republican stronghold, however, over the years it has showcased a shift in voting patterns similar to national trends of polarization. While cities in the state swing Democratic, rural areas in the state tend to swing towards the Republicans. In 2016, Trump won the state by 3.7% while this time, he won the state with a much smaller margin of 1.4%. Biden secured 48.7% of the votes in the state.

In the state of Arizona in the past 72 years, only two Democrats have won, Bill Clinton in 1996 and Harry Truman in 1948. However, due to the increasing number of Hispanic voters in the state, it has become a battleground for parties. While in 2016, Trump won the state by 3.5% points, Biden won the historically Republican state by a razor-thin margin of 0.5% (11 electoral votes).

With 10 electoral college votes, the state of Wisconsin has usually been a democratic state (although with narrow margins at times). However, in 2016, Trump managed to flip the state, securing his victory by a narrow margin of 0.77% points. In 2020, the state sided with Biden and the democratic party, who secured his victory with a margin of 0.7%.

The state of Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes had voted for Democrats in six consecutive elections before Trump’s victory in 2016. Trump managed to flip the state in 2016, securing his victory with a margin of 0.7%, however, failed to win it again in 2020. Co-incidentally, Biden also secured this state in 2020 with a margin of 0.7%.

In 2016, Trump won the state of Michigan by a margin of mere 0.2% points, which was the narrowest margin of any state. With 16 electoral college votes, before 2016, the state voted Democratic in the past six elections. Biden won the state in 2020 with a 2.6% margin. With 29 electoral college votes, Florida is the swing state with not only the most electoral college votes but also the highest population. Out of the past 17 presidential elections, Florida has voted Republican in 12 elections. What is interesting to note is that since 1964 Florida has voted with the eventual winner of the presidential election in all elections except for 1992 (not including 2020). In 2016, Trump won the state with 0.2%, while in 2020 Biden secured the state with a margin of 2.7% points.

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Biden swings Trump misses: A stable Washington around the corner?

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On 7th November 2020, after winning the state of Pennsylvania, and thereby, the electoral college, Joseph R. Biden Jr. was elected as the 46th president of the United States. Biden won the election with 290 electoral votes (50.7% of the popular vote) while Donald Trump managed to get only 214 electoral votes (47.7% of the popular vote). Biden supporters across the country and the world celebrated his victory as well as the historic victory of Senator Kamala Harris of California, who will be the first woman to serve as vice president of the country. On the other hand, hundreds of supporters of Donald Trump have taken to the streets in key swing states as Trump claims the “election is far from over”.

Trump has refused to formally concede the election results and has filed lawsuits in various states, including Michigan, Georgia, Nevada with no success. Even as senior members of the Republican party have begun to distance themselves from Trump, he refuses to give a concession speech. Concession speeches are not a legal requirement in the United States, and Trump’s refusal to do so means nothing for the outcome of the elections, which has already been declared by election officials. As the Biden administration begins its transition into the White House, let us dive deep into the results of the 2020 elections in the United States and see what happened across states and demographics.

Source: Associated Press

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Statistically Speaking

Will Biden-Harris boost the dynamics of India-US ties?

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Joe Biden is set to become the 46th United States President at the White House. His running mate Kamala Harris would become the first-ever woman, andone of colour, to become the Vice President of the United States. Donald Trump may have not conceded yet but the countries around the world are gearing up to understand what their terms of engagement would be when Joe Biden officially enters the Oval Office. New Delhi, in particular, would be looking to solidify its ties with the next US government as rising border tensions with China and the ever-present ‘Pakistan’ dilemma will twin up as major security threats in coming years.

Currently, India is seen as the US’s major strategic partner in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). China’s expansionist policies in the IOR and the US’ commitment towards upholding a ‘rules-based international order’ is bound to strengthen the Indo-US ties in the years to follow.

The other positives for India would include the possible relaxation of restrictions on the H1B and other job-based visa programmes. Also, with the coming of Biden, the US government is set to re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement. This would prove to be a boost for India’s measures to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels by enabling collaboration in environmental sustainability and technology transfer. More importantly, China will no longer need to fill up the vacuum left by the US (led by Trump) when they pulled out of the Paris deal. Although China is currently one of the biggest investors in sustainable technologies, their own production and consumption (further pushed by their population size) brings forth a requirement from other countries to build climate friendly policies. A country like the US can actually transition more easily because it has the capacity to handle that shift and the burden on partnering countries would be less.

Other highlights of Biden’s policy paper which was released during the campaign was that the United States would continue to co-operate with India on Terrorism, health and trade amongst other sectors. More importantly, the Biden administration is said to place importance on strengthening the Indo-US ties by pushing for India’s permanent membership bid at the UN Security Council (UNSC).

It is highly unlikely that all of the support would come for free. The Republican government of Donald Trump has time and again expressed its displeasure on China and Pakistan more openly than any previous governments. The Sino-Pak ties have in fact grown stronger during the Trump administration which has made the Trump government view India as a partner rather than a threat arising in the Asian order . With the entry of Joe Biden, this is bound to change. The Democrat government is more likely to leverage Pakistan vis-a-vis Taliban (in the Afghan Peace deal) by increasing cooperation and financial aid to pull them away from China. This would push India to try and gain a place at the ‘Peace Deal’ table as Afghanistan’s friend. However, the amount of geopolitical polarisation caused by the Trump administration will make it tough for Biden to immediately strike up a friendship with Pakistan and oust China.

India is a sovereign country and everybody is aware of the Modi-Trump bonhomie. In fact, Prime Minister Modi extended his hand for Trump during Trump’s re-election campaign. Trump was more vocal against China when border tensions grew and did not interfere much on India’s internal decisions. Biden’s campaign, on the other hand, included the fact that he would look into the Kashmir issue, the CAA, and the NRC. The Indian government may not like the US’ interference in sovereign decisions and it is likely that not seeing eye to eye in this regard is likely to dent Indo-US relations.

At this point, Biden’s stance on China and how it sees India is vague and the same goes for India. The positives and challenges for India are analysed based on Biden’s campaign points and the existing geopolitical scenario . No campaign rhetoric ever stays rigid as it is bound to change while in power. The growing geoeconomic convergence too will expand the spheres of cooperation between India and the US in areas such as cyber security, Artificial Intelligence, Defence, etc. As the US leapfrogs into stability, the Indo-US relationship is set to evolve into a much more stable one as well.

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Statistically Speaking

RAM VILAS PASWAN: THE POLITICAL WEATHERMAN FROM BIHAR

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Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan passed away on 8 October after a cardiac procedure. He donned many hats during his long political career. Once a political leader with a massive victory margin, a nine-time Lok Sabha member and a one-term Rajya Sabha MP, minister in cabinets of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, one sobriquet that stuck him like none other was that of a “Mausam Vaigyanik”—an expert in reading the political weather.

His knowledge of Indian polity was paramount and since he always knew which way the wind was blowing, he would conveniently switch sides and be the “Kingmaker” and a steady face in the Union Cabinet. Paswan held various Cabinet positions under various Central governments including the Ministry of Communications, Information and Technology, Ministry of Mines, Railways and Labour and Welfare among others.

Hailing from Khagaria in Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan was first fielded in Alauli (Assembly Constituency) in 1969 by the anti-INC Samyukta Socialist Party , an offshoot of the Praja Socialist Party where he eventually won. He was close to freedom fighters and the then prominent politicians such as Raj Narain and Jaiprakash Narayan. The 8-time Lok Sabha MP who has held multiple Central portfolio, Ram Vilas Paswan was much more than just a Dalit leader as some commentators portray him to be.

It is said that one can never have permanent friends nor enemies in politics. Ram Vilas Paswan was dubbed as the ‘Weatherman’ by some and had tailored multiple successful alliances that amplified his image as a kingmaker. . Not only was he a crucial player in consolidating Dalit votes, but also a key partner for most of the parties that came to power in Bihar and at the Centre. He allied with Nitish Kumar in the 1999 General Elections as part of the BJP-led grouping which led to the ousting of Lalu Prasad Yadav from his own seat.

In 2002, Ram Vilas Paswan had quit Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet demanding the removal of Narendra Modi as Gujarat’s Chief Minister. In the subsequent Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government, he was courted as a Minister of Chemical and Fertilisers. Him joining the UPA eventually put Nitish Kumar in the back seat as the JD(U) lost 12 seats, having won just 6. However, in 2014, PM Narendra Modi gave Ram Vilas Paswan a Central portfolio and considered him an important advisor in tackling Dalit issues. It was this positioning, cross-cutting support and the acceptance amongst those he had opposed that signified his role as a kingmaker.

Ram Vilas Paswan’s death has come at a time when Bihar had started pacing for the crucial state assembly elections where Nitish Kumar is seeking another term and RJD’s Tejaswi Yadav is consolidating the opposition ranks. He leaves his legacy behind, and the state is poised to face a confusing three-cornered contest as Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is looking to make a dent into the BJP-JD(U) alliance.

The LJP under Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan is said to contest from 143 seats taking on the JD(U) directly at some constituencies and leaving the BJP unopposed in the others.

ANALYSING VOTEBANK ARITHMETIC

Over the years, undoubtedly, both religion and caste have played a pivotal role in Bihari politics over the years. Until 1967, those belonging to the upper castes dominated both politics and political parties. However, after the resurgence of the middle class, members of castes such as Koeri, Yadav, Kurmi, Paswan inched closer to the power corridors.

When we look at the caste composition of the state, as per the last census, upper castes in Bihar included Brahmins (around 6%), Rajput (around 5%), Bhumihar (5%) and Kayastha (1.5-2%). The upper castes comprise approximately 16% of the population of the state. Those belonging to Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Economically Backward Classes (EBC) constitute a whopping 56% of the total population.

Dominant groups in the OBC include Yadavs (12%) and Kurmis (4%). In addition to this, Dalits and Mahadalits, belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) category constitute another 15% of the population.

Twenty-two caste groups listed under Scheduled Caste category are considered to be Dalits, and they occupy the lowest rungs of the caste hierarchy. In 2007, Nitish Kumar created a new category of ‘Mahadalits’, which would include the most deprived communities. Initially, when a commission was set up to identify the most deprived Dalit castes 18 out of the 22 Dalit castes were included in the Mahadalit category, leaving out Dhobi, Chamar, Pasi and Paswans.

Later, all castes were put in the Mahadalit category, leaving out only Dusadhs (Paswans), who are also the second-largest Dalit caste group. Several political commentators believed that this move by Nitish Kumar was done to marginalize and cut into the vote bank of Ram Vilas Paswan. Due to the creation of the Mahadalit category, the Dalit vote bank split, with Mahadalits supporting Nitish Kumar, while Dalits supporting Ram Vilas Paswan.

After the demise of Ram Vilas Paswan, the question that arises is that whether Chirag’s LJP be able to draw their core Dalit vote-bank or will the Mahadalits continue to line up for Nitish Kumar?

However, as some commentators think Chirag Paswan’s decision to contest alone is not just an attempt to consolidate the Dalit vote-bank, but will instead have other implications.

It is important to note that this is the first time the LJP is contesting an election without its supremo, Ram Vilas Paswan. Chirag’s decision to contest alone might be an attempt to propel LJP’s presence across a wider geography in the state (143 constituencies). Additionally, the LJP has decided to field several upper-caste candidates, lending more support to the preceding argument. Secondly, due to Chirag’s decision, what initially seemed like a two-cornered fight between the RJD and the JD(U)-BJP alliance, has now become a complicated tussle. The decision to contest alone has put the LJP in a unique position to erode the vote bank of both the JD(U)-BJP alliance as well as the RJD, making him an invaluable ally to both fronts. Chirag’s decision has made him an unavoidable presence not just in this assembly election but for the electoral future of Bihar. 

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