Bihar election: Not a smooth ride for Nitish this time

From Editor’s Desk

Editor in Chief – Qamar Farooqui

Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar, who is eying a fourth term as the state CM, can no more expect a smooth ride this assembly election, scheduled to be held in October-November.

Mr Kumar faces a plethora of problems right from ‘discourteous relations’ with his coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to the people’s anger over his “failures” in delivering on his development promises.

The chief minister was severely criticised for to “inept” handing of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only from opposition leader Tejashwi Prasad, the son of his arch rival and RJD president Lalu Prasad, Mr Kumar also faced ire of his coalition partner Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) on the issue. He, however, tried to evade the question. Instead, he reaffirmed the NDA’s campaign theme by setting “15 years versus 15 years” discourse, but ground reports suggest that the narrative does not impress people, particularly among the first time voters. The first time voters do not see merely electricity and roads as benchmark of growth. They are set to remind Mr Kumar of the promises he made on development. That he would stop migration, provide employment, upgrade educational institutions etc.

It can comfortably be said that the outcome of the election will be determined by factors such as flood, migration, jobs, coronavirus law and order. Owing to lack of economic activities, scores of people have been forced to leave their homes for works in other states.

While the opposition parties, Congress and RJD, were attacking the government on the issue of migration even before the coronavirus pandemic, LJP president Chirag Paswan also took a swipe at Mr Kumar on it on various occasions. Further, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) in June this year released a data stating that the state’s unemployment rate increased 31.2 percentage points in April 2020.

The coronavirus-induced lockdown and the problems that accompanied by the pandemic can upset Mr Kumar’s prospect. He has to tell people the works he has done in 15 years in health sector. British medical journal The Lancet recently reported that Bihar is one of the hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic in India. Despite the lowest testing rate in the country, the state has the sixth highest number of active coronavirus cases. According to government figure, the state conducts 7,917 tests per 10 lakh people against the national average of 18,086.

Political analysts suggest that Mr Kumar’s catchphrase of “sushaasan” (good governance) too stands hollow in the wake of spate of bank robberies in several parts of the state, besides rise in other incidents of crime.

Further, flood continues to remain a key poll issue in the state. While Rs 6000 credited to bank accounts of every family affected by flood could give consolation to Mr Kumar, this will be insufficient as the damage is, of course, high. His impassionate  pitch to draw a comparison of 15 years of his rule with 15 years of Lalu-Rabri rule will have few takers. 

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