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Bihar elections: BJP uses the corona vaccine bait


Coronavirus has arrived at the Bihar Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) elections, but as bait being used by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to lure in the voters. It is the corona vaccine that is being used as the bait, giving rise to criticism nationwide.

In its elections manifesto for the Bihar elections, BJP has declared that if they come back to power in the state, they will ensure free corona virus vaccine for all the residents of Bihar. The opposition has vehemently protested against BJP’s political tactics of ‘get free vaccines for votes’. They say that if there is a vaccine, then it is the responsibility of the central government to ensure that all the citizens of the country can avail it. How can the Modi government, that is BJP, simply promise free vaccines for the people of one state only?

The main opposition contestant against the BJP-Janata Dal United (JDU) alliance in Bihar, mahaghatbandhan (grand alliance) candidate and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader, Tejashwi Jadav, has clearly said, “The corona vaccine is for the entire country. It does not belong to BJP alone.” Complaints about the BJP vaccine tactics have also been placed with the Election Commission.

Political tensions have reached a height in Bihar, with elections being held today. The prime minister himself has taken up campaigning to salvage the BJP-JDU government in the state. On the other hand, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is going all out campaigning for the NDO alliance government there. He is raising issues of the army, the border, Chine’s aggression and even the revoking of Article 370 on Jammu-Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Modi continues with his nationalist mantra in Bihar. He is highlighting the ‘chaotic’ times of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) was at the helm there and also lauding the development under Nitish Kumar.

Countering such claims, Congress and RJD are highlighting the negligence of the Modi government, that is, BJP, towards the migrant workers. Around 1.9 million migrant workers have returned to Bihar. Around 300,000 migrant workers have been added to the voters’ list. These suffering migrant workers are a cause for consternation to the BJP-JDU alliance. The opposition is highlighting the sufferings of these migrant workers, instigating the anger of their families. They are depicting how these workers have had to walk thousands of miles in foot to reach home and continue to undergo all sorts of sufferings. Political experts feel that the migrant workers are a significant factor in the election this time.

The elections to the 243 seats of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha are to take place on 28 October (today), 3 November and 7 November. The results will be published in 10 November.  This election will be a deciding factor of whether the Janata Dal United leader Nitish Kumar will remain the state’s chief minister after a 15-year stretch in this seat of power.

And the alliance partner BJP is determined to come back to power this time as the main party there. In 2017, BJP drew Nitish Kumar into its own camp, luring him away from the RJD and Congress government, establishing the first NDA alliance government in Bihar. But BJP had remained as the second party of the alliance in Bihar. But this time Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined that BJP becomes the main party there. That is why BJP is trying to curb the people’s anger against Nitish and put the focus on Modi himself.

BJP has included in its election manifesto the commitment to provide jobs to 1.9 million people in Bihar, addressing the state’s unemployment problems. The opposition’s Tejashwi Jadav has also put forward a list of people-oriented commitments in his party’s manifesto. They promise jobs for 1 million people, tax exemption for setting up industries, financial facilities for farmers and allowance for the unemployed.

The latest CVoter survey, however, indicates that under Nitish Kumar’s leadership, the BJP-JDU alliance will clinch 43 per cent of the votes and come back to power in Bihar. The opposition will win 35 per cent of the votes, it predicts. The prediction holds that BJP-JDU will win 135 to 159 seats, while the RJD-Congress alliance will win 77 to 98 seats.

After the results of the survey were published, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said with confidence that the people of Bihar know full well that NDA has no vested interests. We always work for the development and the welfare of the state, he said.

However, the chief minister candidate of the opposition alliance, Tejashwi Jadav said that the ‘mentally exhausted’ Nitish Kumar and associates will have to bid farewell very soon. Many people, seeing the crowds thronging at the public rallies, feel that people are being pulled to the RJD meetings by the invisible influence of its leader Lalu Prasad. His son Tejashwi Jadav has undoubtedly posed as a challenge to Nitish Kumar.

Lalu Prasad is presently in jail, indicted in a fodder scam. So, in his absence, Tejashwi is being put forward as the next chief minister by the opposition Congress, RJD and the left parties. This opposition alliance also has the support of the Maoist CPIML this time.

Meanwhile, Chirag Paswan, son of NDA Dalit leader late Ram Vilas Raswan, is now a thorn in the flesh for Nitish Kumar. The 37-year-old Lok Janashakti Party leader Chirag sees himself as a chief minister candidate. He accused Nitish of abject failure and also declared to pitch a candidate against JDU in the election. But he has also said he will remain in the NDA alliance, keeping up an understanding with BJP. So, Chirag’s decision may confuse the vote equations somewhat. 

In the meantime, BJP ally Dalit leader Upendra Kushwaha’s party has formed a new alliance with Hyderabad’s Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi and Uttar Pradesh’s Mayawati, dividing the Dalit and Muslim votes. This is likely to go in favour of BJP.

Caste is always an issue in the Bihar elections and this time is no exception. There is a scuffle for the votes of the Dalits and other backwards communities. Though chief minister Nitish Kumar himself is of an agricultural caste, the Dalits and Muslim voters are siding with the opposition. They are still swayed by the influence of former chief minister Lalu Prasad’s lantern and stick (RJD’s election symbol), which was a symbol of justice for the Dalits and other backward communities.

At the same time, it is true that people have seen some development in the state during Nitish Kumar’s government. Killings and crime has decreased compared to the time of the RJD rule, but have not disappeared. In fact, an election candidate was murdered on Saturday. Nitish Kumar’s government has been a failure in mass ration distribution. Then there is the anti-incumbency sentiments brewing for 15 years, the negligence of the migrant workers and other factors pertaining to unemployment, education, health and more, which have provoked public ire in Bihar. The opposition is using these weapons against Nitish Kumar.

All eyes are on the verdict that will ultimately be passed by the people of Bihar. No matter what the surveys may predict, the opposition chief minister candidate Tejashwi Jadav has said that when Lalu Prasad is granted bail in all  cases and is freed on 9 November, it will be time for Nitish Kumar to bid farewell.