Bihar Assembly Elections | When politics is an end in itself

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addresses an election campaign rally in Jehanabad district on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

For voters of Bihar, issues such as unemployment and corruption have taken the back seat, with the debates revolving around personalities: can Chief Minister Nitish Kumar retain his chair; will the BJP have a Chief Minister of its own for the first time in the State; and is it possible for Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Chirag Paswan to make or mar the prospects of Mr. Kumar?

In Paliganj, Arwal and Sasaram, most voters across age and caste lines appeared more interested in discussing these political scenarios.

“Forget about unemployment or mass migration in search of livelihood... these have been going on for years and years and will continue, irrespective of which party comes to power. But we are more interested in knowing whether Mr. Kumar will again be the Chief Minister or Chirag Paswan could be a spoiler for him,” Chandra Prakash Singh of Dawath village in Rohtas said, sitting on a platform with several middle-aged men on the premises of a temple.

At the Karakat market, Pankaj Kushwaha, Rajendra Kumar and Shiv Shankar Singh were heading for their village on a motorbike, all without masks and helmets. Asked if they were not afraid of catching the coronavirus, Mr. Shiv Shankar said, “Do you see anyone here in the market wearing a mask or a helmet? This is normal, and if you wear these two things, people will stare at you.”

Politicians sans masks

“Even campaigning politicians do not wear masks,” Mr. Kushwaha said and went on to ask, “Okay, you are from the press. So please tell me if Nitish Kumar will remain Chief Minister or will go… will Chirag be able to do something or is he just creating a bubble?”

Rajendra Kumar, in a white kurta-pyjama, smiled and turned away. He is a supporter of Mr. Nitish Kumar, the others said.

At the Bikramganj block office too, people were engaged in an animated discussion on whether the BJP would have its own Chief Minister now.

“I think, the BJP this time will get no fewer than 100 seats and have its own Chief Minister,” Ravi Shankar Singh said at a tea shop. “Not 100, but around 90,” Janardan Yadav added.

The debate then turned to Tejashwi Yadav and the RJD-led grand alliance. “The RJD will get 70 to 75 seats, but the Congress will not get to even double digits,” Mr. Janardan Yadav said.

Political analyst Ajay Kumar told The Hindu, “Bihar is said to be one of most politically aware States where people love to argue and discuss politics for hours and hours. But sometimes, they keep mum and throw only a smile when one asks them about their voting preference. We call them chupka [silent] voters.”

Numbers game

About 100 km away, at Sakri, Madanpur Dhawa and Chakia villages of Arwal district, people seemed less interested in discussing issues such as rampant crime, farmers’ woes or the pandemic. They showed interest only in discussing how many seats the JD(U) would win. “Nitish Kumar’s party would win around 50 seats or, it can go even below 30,” said Anshuman Sharma, a postgraduate in political science from Magadh University.

Asked why he thought so, Mr. Sharma said, “This time, he is being caught off-guard by none other than his alliance partner, the BJP. Don’t you see his body language these days while he addresses public meetings? He looks tired and defeated.” On the question of unemployment, he said, “It is an issue but we’ve lost hope from Mr. Kumar. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP can do something.”

Had Mr. Modi fulfilled his promise of giving a ₹1.25 lakh crore economic package to Bihar yet?’ “Not yet, but having its own Chief Minister, the party may think about it positively,” said Mr. Sharma’s friend Rajesh Chandrabhushan.

“Yes, the Bihar election this time veers around Nitish Kumar — will he be Chief Minister again, will he not?” Mr. Kumar, the political analyst, said.

Shailesh Kumar, a retired banker at Raniganj village in Paliganj, said, “I request you not to ask me any question about who will win or who will lose the poll, but please tell me whether Chirag Paswan is acting on behalf of the BJP. I think, without any green signal from the top BJP leadership he will not take such a big risk.”

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 11:58:19 AM |

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