Bihar Assembly Election 2020 Amid COVID-19; History Of Bihar Politics

Bihar is the first state to conduct Vidhan Sabha Elections 2020 amidst pandemic in October-November guiding the nation towards the new normal. The announcement comes with Election Commission (EC) realizing the campaign and voting guidelines with Supreme Court’s ruling out the plea of election postponement.

The total number of coronavirus cases surged more than 1.6 lakh in Bihar. The recent high-level testing, battling of social stigma, appointments of vacant health force has brought the recovery rate to 91 per cent, better than that of the national average. However, Oppositions believe the numbers to be manipulated on account election propaganda.

Why are elections being held amidst pandemic?

Corona halted life; Bihar is no exception. However, with unlocking gradually implemented all over India and the Supreme Court giving a thumbs-up, Election Commission is positive to organize the elections with suitable supervision and protection taking inspiration from nations like Australia, Taiwan, Mongolia. On September 21, EC hosted an international webinar, wherein Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner indicated decisions would be taken within the “next two to three days” on visiting Bihar.

What are the guidelines by Election Commission?

The commission is yet to release the poll dates. It asserted considerable infrastructural change: maximum number of electors at polling station reduced from 1,500 to 1000, infected or quarantined patients would vote in the last hour of the poll, masks mandatory for voters and hand gloves will be provided to each voter at the time of signing the register.

For campaigning, physical drive along with the online campaign, but with limitation of only a group of five people visit door-to-door and restriction of candidate convoy for roadshows only to five vehicles. Parties have already kicked off with their virtual campaign.

Bihar Assembly Election: First Post-COVID Election; History Of Bihar Politics
Election Commission of India gives guidelines for conducting Bihar assembly Election. (Image Source: ECI Website)

Major parties contesting

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok JanShakti Party (LJP) and Nitish Kumar’s Janta Dal-United (JDU) will have him as their CM candidate and the face of the electoral campaign.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of Indian National Congress (INC), Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Rashtriya Lok Samta and Vikassheel Insaan Party will have Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav, Former Deputy CM, as the lead of alliance. Samajwadi Party’s leader Akhilesh Yadav made a statement to Support RJD without contesting Bihar Polls.

The Mahagathbandhan of UPA led alliance will also have the support of Hemant Soren, Present CM of Jharkhand and leader of Mukti Morcha Party.

Identity Politics or Welfare politics?

The state politics from 1990s saw Lalu Yadav’s United Dal coming into power based on wining caste sentiments of people; unfortunately, it led to a distortion of law and order. So much, that the word “Jungle Raj” was coincided with Bihar due to normalized crimes, kidnaps, Dalits massacres, loots and it saw a subsequent presidential rule in the state implemented by Vajpayee Government in 1999.

Following identity politics, people looked for welfare; in 2005, the spilt in United Dal found new hope with “Nitish Kumar’s JDU and BJP alliance. The development of the state was stagnant, but it saw normalization of law and order. He has been the CM for Bihar for the past 15 years with consequent wins.

All hail party politics:

The Multi-party system emerging from 1990 gives a new view to Indian Politics with small state parties influencing their respective states. North India, particular is known for dynamics of MLAs changing parties to CMs changing parties. Nitesh Kumar’s shift from BJP into his political foe RJD in 2014 and then back with BJP in 2017 while still being in power for 15 years is one prominent example.

Challenges to Nitesh Kumar in upcoming election:

The state is looking onto employment, urbanization, industrialization, migrant problems, education and public health care. The inability of Nitish Kumar’s government to make Bihar prosperous in various factors will challenge him in upcoming elections. The BJP campaign over politicizing the dead shows a new stoop in Indian politics.

Currently, twofold issues of “Migrant-Crisis” and “Flood – destruction” will play a key role in determining majority as about 75 lakh people were affected due to flood and State’s unemployment rates are far worse than the national average. Furthermore, deteriorating health of Lalu Yadav may have sympathized vote for UPA led alliance. The comeback of Yashwant Sinha into politics will also see a major turn and question over Nitish’s Regime.

Problem with every party in the ruling has been a lack of acknowledgement of issues and diversion with blame-games. Incumbent Prime Minister Modi blames the first Prime Minister Nehru; similarly, incumbent Chief Minister Nitish blames Earlier Chief Minister Lalu Yadav.

Be it Centre or State, if problems aren’t recognized, a plan for resolution and revival won’t come into the picture. Political Parties need to understand that people are greedy and needy for development, unless provided, will outrightly snitch away the given power.

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