New Delhi: Will Bihar witness a leadership under the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Tejashwi Yadav or will Chief Minister Nitish Kumar get another opportunity to serve the state? The much anticipated Bihar verdict will be announced today, and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is hoping for a comeback even though a number of exit polls have given Bihar’s opposition coalition the lead to form the government.
While the opposition campaign for the assembly elections completely relied on CM candidate Tejashwi Yadav, the BJP-led NDA once again banked on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Many said this is due to the fact that the senior leadership was aware of a “Nitish fatigue” in the state, and hence felt Modi’s image and his rallies would make up for it, a strategy that the party has followed across most state elections in the past five years. All eyes are also set on these elections to see whether Bihar will go by the caste arithmetic or will issues of development and jobs take the centre-stage.
Incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also held several rallies. However, many had pointed out that it was not as energetic as the RJD or even the BJP’s campaign. The majority mark for forming a government is 122 in the 243-seat Bihar assembly.
In the last assembly elections in 2015, the JD(U) had won 71 of the 101 seats contested, the BJP took 53 of 157, and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won two seats of the 42 it contested.
The RJD had the maximum seats of 80 while the Congress bagged 27 constituencies. Other parties that secured seats include the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation (3), the Hindustani Awam Morcha (1) and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (2).
Challenge for Nitish, change of strategy for RJD
The exit polls have highlighted the challenges facing Nitish Kumar, for whom the stakes include not just the CM’s chair but also his reputation as an able administrator. If he manages to pull through, he will serve as the CM for a fourth consecutive term.
Chirag Paswan’s decision to break away from the NDA and have his LJP contest independently has further made this election a politically charged event. The LJP fielded many candidates against the JD(U), especially several BJP rebels, to damage Nitish’s prospects. It, however, also fielded a few candidates against the BJP.
The Tejashwi Yadav-led opposition made unemployment a major issue, promising 10 lakh jobs as soon as the government is formed, while the BJP concentrated on “Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bharat”.
The BJP also promised 19 lakh jobs to lure young voters. The youth aged 18 to 29 years form around 24 per cent of Bihar’s voters and have the potential to turn the unpredictable election. This includes over 5 lakh first-time voters in the age group of 18-19 years.
The BJP also decided to counter the RJD’s narrative of unemployment and corruption by harking back to the previous regime of Lalu Prasad Yadav, often dubbed the ‘Jungle Raj’.
“As far as we are concerned, we feel it will be a close contest and we will be able to form the government,” said a senior BJP leader. “They can celebrate as much as they want but exit polls are not the final results.”
The RJD, on its part, has advised all its supporters to maintain “restraint, simplicity and courtesy” no matter what the election results might be.
The elections are also crucial from the point of view of the performance of the BJP after a series of recent losses, including in Jharkhand and Delhi.
At the same time, this is the first election that is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic. Keeping this in mind, the Election Commission had issued a host of guidelines especially with regard to safety and social distancing, most of which were flouted during the campaigning.
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