The countdown has begun in Bihar
The Bihar assembly elections for 243 seats assumes importance for two reasons
The Bihar assembly elections for 243 seats assumes importance for two reasons. One, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had completed a record of 15 years in power and second because this is the first Assembly election since Covid-19 had disrupted normal life affecting the economy on all fronts. Apart from negative impact on the economy, the Nitish government is facing strong criticism from opposition over the way the pandemic was handled.
The biggest criticism was that apart from having failed to take timely measures to contain the pandemic, there has been reverse migration of labour. This elections certainly is a litmus test for Nitish. It is a fact that before Nitish led government came to power in 2005, there was jungle raj in the state. During his first term there was lot of improvement in governance but then he could not sustain the same pace.
Though Nitish brought Bihar out of jungle raj, law and order in the state had later worsened and the 69-year-old leader is now asking people to judge his 15 years of performance in totality as against the 15 year rule of Lalu government.
The fact is that his popularity has been dented and age too is not in his favour. The opposition had made the mismanagement of the return of migrant labour from other states to Bihar a major poll issue. The campaign had turned emotive and rhetoric. The suspected suicide of film actor Sushant Singh Rajput who hails from Bihar was also used by opposition to face caste and parochial emotions. The AICC president Sonia Gandhi appealed to voters to script a new future.
Lalu's son Tejaswi Yadav attacked Nitish Kumar for having failed to attract industries to the state and questioned the chief minister as to how many jobs he had created during his 15- year-rule. He also promised 10 lakh government jobs if his party was voted to power. This promise has proved to be a hit among the people in the backdrop of the lockdown and widespread unemployment.
The third factor in this election is Chirag Paswan, the son of the late Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, whose rebellion against Nitish Kumar is believed by many to be backed by the BJP.
This time Nitish looks alone and embattled in the Election 2020 frame, as voters ask: "Road aur bijli se pet bhar jaayega? (Is road and electricity enough?). But despite all the cacophony, the social coalition of upper castes, non-Yadav backward castes and good number of Dalits seem to be behind NDA. It now remains to be seen if the Opposition had succeeded in breaching it or not. The Opposition does not appear to be battle ready.
For the first time in three decades, the state is witnessing an election where Lalu Prasad could not lead the campaign. One will have to wait for a few more days to know whose 15-year-long rule finally gets the nod from Bihar voters.