Bihar blues: On Phase II of Bihar Assembly Elections

More than 54% of voters in 94 seats across 17 districts in Bihar voted in the second of the three-phase Assembly election on Tuesday. The first phase on October 28 had witnessed more than 55% voting in 71 seats. In the third phase on November 7, the remaining 78 seats across 15 districts will vote. In 2015, of these 94 seats, RJD had won 33, the JD(U) had 30, the BJP 20, and the Congress, seven. The Lok Janshakti Party had won in two constituencies, and one seat each had gone to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and an independent candidate. The JD(U) that came to power in 2015 in alliance with the RJD and the Congress made a somersault later and is contesting this year in alliance with the BJP. Incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s advantage at the beginning appears to have considerably dissipated as the second phase concludes. RJD’s 30-year-old leader Tejashwi Yadav’s unrelenting campaigning has struck a chord with the voters, particularly the youth. Mr. Yadav managed to put the government on the mat on questions of employment, healthcare, and outmigration from the State. His promise of 10 lakh jobs is resonating well among the swelling unemployed population of the State and the RJD’s alliance with the Congress and the Left is working well on the ground.

The BJP-JD(U) alliance banked on development issues and a formidable social coalition of upper castes, Extremely Backward Classes and Maha Dalits. Its claim of ‘double engine’ progress — driven by governments in the State and at the Centre — is weaker this time, due to the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic by both. Mr. Yadav’s efforts to underplay identity-oriented mobilisation strategies and advance a new vocabulary for politics is laudatory but fraught with risks. The response from the BJP and the JD(U) has already taken shape, ahead of the third phase, which will largely be in the northeastern part of the State. On the back foot on governance questions, both Mr. Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are focusing more on emotive issues that can polarise the voters. Both try to foment fear among voters by warning them of a return of RJD misgovernance that ended 15 years ago; Mr. Modi has cited the Ram temple in Ayodhya and Kashmir policy as the BJP’s differentiators. If this tone dominates the field until the third phase, there will be considerable cost to social harmony and democratic norms.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 9:22:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/bihar-blues-on-phase-ii-of-bihar-assembly-elections/article33016887.ece

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