Bihar Assembly election: Congress ‘sings’ migrants ‘anger’

Migrants worker from Bihar take a break in Vijayawada as they are on their return journey to work in Suluruleta in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. File   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. Giri

“Ka kiye ho [What have you done?]”- the Congress’s video song for the Bihar Assembly elections released on Friday last, comprising haunting images of migrant workers heading back home after the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown was announced, seems to be a part of a clear strategy to tap migrant workers’ ‘anger’.

The hardship faced by the poor in the initial days of the lockdown is a recurrent theme of the Congress’s poll campaign in an attempt to portray the BJP-led government at the Centre and the Nitish Kumar-led NDA dispenation in the State as “insensitive”.

“Lakhs of our brothers and sisters from from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have had to walk back thousands of kilometres. And in Bihar, Nitish Babu [Chief Minister] had said that they wouldn't be allowed”, Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala, who is now overseeing the party’s campaign, told reporters in Patna on Tuesday.

Out of power for over three decades and without a distinct caste-community combination that make up its core voters, the Congress seems to be trying to build a new constituency of voters that manages to transcend caste boundaries on the basis of shared experiences.

Sonia’s call

Setting the tone for the Bihar elections, party president Sonia Gandhi told her colleagues at a virtual meeting last Sunday, “The country was pushed into the abyss of Corona pandemic by sheer ineptitude and mismanagement of the Modi Government. All this happened as we witnessed the biggest unplanned, unmanaged and cruel migration of crores of migrant labourers as Government remained a mute spectator to their miseries”.

According to a written reply by the Ministry of Labour in Parliament last month, there are an estimated 15 lakh migrant workers who had returned to Bihar since the lockdown was imposed in March. And the Congress is clearly eyeing a chunk of this voting segment to come its way.

Political analysts’ view

Political analysts, however, are sceptical about the outcome.

“As far as migrant labourers are concerned, many of them have returned to places like Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ludhiana and other places. They are not well to travel again to vote. And even if they do, caste and clan loyalties will play a part”, Professor Ashutosh Kumar, chairperson of the Department of Political Science, Panjab University, said about his native State.

“It's a good narrative and sounds good but I am not sure of its impact, as elections in Bihar are fought on caste lines. And the Congress has been a winnable party since the 1990s and has lost the support of even its traditional voters like Harijans and Muslims. But because of their alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, they can hope to get votes from the Yadavs and Muslims”, he added

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 2:01:58 AM |

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