“The Bihar elections confirm that voters do not seem to attribute direct responsibility to the prime minister for the mishandling of national affairs, such as the economy or the pandemic itself,” said Gilles Verniers, a professor of political science at Ashoka University, near New Delhi.
Mr. Verniers called the B.J.P.’s performance — in light of Bihar’s ongoing struggles with the pandemic — “remarkable.”
Exit polls had predicted a big win for Mr. Kumar’s 31-year-old challenger, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, or National People’s Party. Mr. Yadav focused on an issue of particular importance to Biharis: the lack of jobs for young people. The youth unemployment rate in 2018 and 2019 in Bihar was nearly 31 percent, compared with 17 percent nationwide.
Mr. Yadav was able to capture the imagination of the mainly young electorate with a pledge to create a million new jobs. Exit polls strongly favored Mr. Yadav’s coalition, which includes India’s main opposition party, Congress.
The B.J.P.-led coalition was able to counter Mr. Yadav’s appeal, in part, no doubt, because Mr. Modi himself campaigned so heavily in the state. The prime minister cast Mr. Yadav as “jungle raj ke yuvraj,” or the prince of an era of lawlessness, in a reference to his parents’ rule of Bihar.
Mr. Yadav’s father, Lalu Prasad, who served one and a half terms, beginning in 1990, has been in and out of prison for years on corruption charges. He is incarcerated at a hospital in Ranchi, a city in neighboring Jharkhand State. While under investigation for embezzling public funds in 1997, he appointed his wife, Rabri Devi, as chief minister. She remained in power until 2005.
Experts have estimated that the economic collapse caused by the pandemic and a lockdown earlier this year, which led to the return of millions of migrants, may have sent youth unemployment above 40 percent in the state.