Grand collision: On Bihar polls

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had started with the advantage of Opposition disunity when campaigning began for the Assembly election in Bihar, but his patchy record in governance soon became the central conversation in the State. The voting rate in the first of the three phases of the election on Wednesday matched 2015 levels, and the COVID-19 pandemic has had little impact on voter enthusiasm. There is a new urgency and competitiveness in the arena ahead of the next two phases as some of the original calculations of parties are being tested. Mr. Kumar, who has been on the back foot following his mishandling of the pandemic, is hoping to win a fourth straight term by cashing in on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, which by all accounts has overtaken his own. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to chart an independent path, while professing to reinforce the alliance with the Janata Dal (United) that Mr. Kumar leads. The BJP campaigning has put the spotlight on Mr. Modi. The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), another ally of the BJP at the Centre, is contesting separately and has focused its fire on Mr. Kumar, with considerable impact. It is possible that the BJP let one ally loose on another to fish in troubled waters. At the very least, the BJP has shown little interest in keeping the alliance tent in order.

Partly fuelled by this friction within and largely due to Mr. Kumar’s inherent failures, the vulnerabilities of the JD(U)-BJP alliance have increased over the last fortnight. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, carries a mixed bag of his father Lalu Prasad’s legacy — of social justice and misgovernance. The 30-year-old leader of the Opposition alliance that also includes the Congress and the Left, had appeared to be a callow challenger to the battle-hardened Kumar at the beginning. His campaigning has forced a rethink among sceptics. He is rallying noticeable enthusiasm, and has struck a chord with the young voters on a question that matters the most to them — unemployment. The BJP mocked his promise of 10 lakh jobs initially, but came around to offering double that number itself. Mr. Kumar and Mr. Modi are invoking the memories of the RJD rule that ended in 2005, which they think will turn away voters from the party. The young Mr. Yadav is trying to take his politics beyond his father’s legacy by appealing to new concerns. Mr. Modi has also deployed the familiar trope of the Ram temple to seek votes in Bihar. All said, the JD(U)-BJP alliance has a formidable social base that is not easy to breach. What Mr. Yadav has clearly managed to do so far is to challenge the alliance’s imperiousness.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 8:49:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/grand-collision-the-hindu-editorial-on-bihar-assembly-elections-2020/article32975942.ece

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