With all political parties pursuing the voters through numerous tactics and tantrums, the canvassing for the first round of polling has come to an end. Nonetheless, it is not discernible to categorically conclude the swinging mood of the voters.
Elections in Bihar are drawing the attention of the country for varying reasons. It is a politically conscious northern state that has given a series of movements starting from freedom struggle to Jai Prakash Narayan led socialist movement in the country along with a galaxy of political stalwarts. The state, with more than 12 crore population, has the credit of influencing national politics significantly in the past. Thus, the outcome of Bihar state elections is likely to have serious implications on the future political moves in the Hindi heartland of India.
The state which gave birth to non-violence through the religions of Buddhism and Jainism is sunken deep in unemployment, corruption, massive migration, law & order issues, dilapidated education system, poor health infrastructure, inadequate electricity, floods, poor roads, etc. It is just a chance that the year 2020 is timed in a way that a number of young leaders have surfaced out with their proclamations to act as a harbinger for bringing the Bihar state out from the miseries. Many old guards of state politics are at the age in which the transfer of their political legacy is poised to take place now.
The 2020 Bihar elections are special due to the fact that it is the first election since the COVID-19 broke out. Also, it is the first time in Bihar that the sitting Chief Minister is being challenged by young politicians in the fray.
Interestingly, the young leaders of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), namely Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan, are repeatedly challenging NDA’s Chief Ministerial candidate Nitish Kumar for the poor state of affairs in Bihar. Indeed, it is very difficult for anyone to absolve the 15-year-old Nitish government for its inability in making the state free from its miseries. The absence of up to the mark development, prevalent unemployment, poor education system, and weak infrastructure & services have been held responsible for nucleating the anguish among a large fraction of voters. Uncertainties faced by the young population is constantly infusing frustration in the youth of the state. The inability on part of the Government in capitalizing on the demographic dividend is likely to bring a lot of changes in the upcoming elections.
The Bihar elections of 2020 are witnessing prominent political dynasty, including former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad’s sons – namely Tejashwi and Tej Pratap from Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Late Ram Vilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan from Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Sharad Yadav’s daughter Subhashini Raj Rao from Congress party, Chetan Anand – son of Anand Mohan Singh – from RJD, Vinod Chowdhary’s daughter Pushpam Priya Choudhary from newly established Plurals party, Shatrughan Sinha’s son Luv Sinha from Congress, Digvijay Singh’s daughter Shreyasi Singh from BJP, among many others. Other youth leaders emerging as key players include Mukesh Sahani of Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP) – a part of NDA, and the firebrand nationalist Kanhaiya Kumar of Communist Party of India who is with RJD led Mahagathbandhan. Conspicuously, all these young Turks of Bihar politics are less than 40 years of age, and many of them are aspiring to govern the state or be the kingmaker. The message is quite loud and clear – a new generation is coming fast to replace the old masters and the state has a ray of hope for a resurgence.
Looking at the electioneering, one finds the NDA is relying heavily on a bunch of influential star campaigners from the state and outside, including Prime Minister Modi, UP’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, to name a few. Similarly, Mahagathbandhan is trying its luck greatly under the leadership of RJD’s Tejashwi and INC’s Rahul Gandhi. The great disparity between the campaigners of the two fronts has made it a tough fight for the 30-year old Tejashwi Yadav. Hence, the sole face of Mahagathbandhan, Tejashwi Yadav, can be often seen taking a jibe at NDA for its twenty helicopters buzzing in the sky to counter his rallying around. Helicopters are indeed enticing the impoverished assemblage in the election rallies of popular leaders – a lot many come merely to see these machines from close!
Huge crowds in election meetings of many leaders are unequivocally yelling for a change in the state government due to its inability to relieve the state of its hardships even in the 21st century. The overwhelming response to RJD’s proclamation of 10 lakh jobs since the beginning of the election campaign, although criticized initially by NDA as a glimpse of Tejashwi’s inexperience, gave a cue to NDA about the significance of employment to the state populace. As a consequence, NDA’s Bharatiya Janata Party proposed 19 lakh employment opportunities in its election manifesto. However, BJP’s credibility of living up to its promises, especially on employment issues, is being questioned by many on account of its past promises being termed as ‘jumla’ (cliche).
Another proclamation of BJP for giving free COVID-19 vaccines has not augured well. Many are questioning the promise on ethical grounds for it is believed that providing free vaccines of a global pandemic is the primary responsibility of every government to fight this public health crisis successfully. Nevertheless many states like Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have pitched similarly for free Corona vaccine.
Indisputably, the deadly COVID-19, being transmissible, will necessitate nationwide free vaccination for the safety of its citizens – something which the Union Government has recently hinted at.
In every election rally, NDA broadcasts the 15-year ‘Susashan’ (good governance) and tries to persuade voters to bless Nitish Kumar with yet another term to continue with the ongoing developments in the state. However, in this election season, it has been quite easy to spot voters denying the much-hyped improvement. The utter neglect, shown by the Union as well as the State Government, towards the sufferers during COVID-19 lockdown is adding to the challenges in wooing the voters in favour of NDA. The Nal-Jal scheme, distribution of cycle to girls, liquor ban, etc. among various schemes of Nitish government have not been any lucrative to the state voters either.
Mahagathbandhan’s positioning of Tejashwi as its Chief Ministerial candidate, devoid of the shadow of Lalu and Rabri, seems largely agreeable among the young voters. The asseverations for no examination fees for job applications, free travel to job seekers, rejuvenating education systems by bringing academic activities at par with other parts of the nation, and stopping migration out of state are the key takeaways for the Bihari youth. A prominent change is visible from the apparent drifting away of the Mahagathbandhan from the old ‘social engineering’, howbeit truth will unfold in due course.
The arrival of Chirag Paswan as the game-changer of Bihar elections is troubling NDA on account of the confusion created from his fidelity to Narendra Modi and strong dislike against Nitish Kumar, even to the extent of putting him behind bars for corruption. The slogan of ‘Bihar first, Bihari first’ is doubtlessly sensitizing the virtuous voters of the state. New dimensions are being added to these elections through the LJP’s announcements for restoring the pride of the state through the resurrection of basic governance and infrastructure.
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Nonetheless, the extremely disarranged academics, delays in the finalization of appointments in the government sector, and pending job vacancies are dissuading young voters across all caste & religions away from the present state government. The constant questioning of the outcomes of the much-talked initiatives of the Nitish government is definitely disturbing the electoral mood.
With all political parties pursuing the voters through numerous tactics and tantrums, the canvassing for the first round of polling has come to an end. Nonetheless, it is not discernible to categorically conclude the swinging mood of the voters, but the young Tejashwi has unquestionably created ripples in his favour in the otherwise stagnant politics of Bihar state. Considering the political acumen of the largest political party of the country – the BJP, it will be premature to speculate what will open out on 10th November 2020, but it is quite a roller coaster ride to the Chief Minister of Bihar.