As Bihar Assembly election gains momentum, the alliances and parties are in full throttle with their campaigns. The voting for the 243-member assembly will take place in three phases on October 28, November 3 and November 7, and the counting on November 10. Bihar is not without its problems and analysts point out that there are various issues, new and old, that might affect the election this year.
Ever since 2006, Bihar has been facing a farming crisis concerning, but not limited to, the repeal of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act in 2006. This is especially concerning since agriculture is Bihar’s backbone employing almost 81% of its workforce. In recent years, the problem became a full-fledged crisis and many of its farming communities migrated to other states for work. As the Covid-19 pandemic got worse in India, migrant workers lost their jobs, livelihood, and became abandoned wanderers on the National Highways. The left political parties and their ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had announced that they would make the migrant and farmer issues an electoral concern. The Mahagathbandhan Alliance (RJD, Indian National Congress, and the left parties) had also made a stand against the three agriculture bills, echoing the concerns of many protesting farmers across the country. The Janata Dal (United) had supported their current ally Bharatiya Janata Party in the centre to pass the three agriculture bills.
Nitish Kumar, JDU Leader and Bihar CM
Closely related to the farming crisis is the transformation of farmers to migrant workers. The Covid crisis pushed them to unemployment and impoverishment. Bihar is also going through a job crisis. Contrary to government statements, unemployment has affected various caste and class brackets throughout the state. The Covid crisis and the state’s below-par efforts further worsened the situation for the jobless and poor. Recently, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav said, “If RJD gets the opportunity to form a government then in the first Cabinet meeting, with the first signature itself, 10 lakh jobs will be given. This is not just a promise, but a strong will. These will be government jobs and permanent ones.” However, Bihar Chief Minister and JDU leader Nitish Kumar ridiculed Tejashwi’s claims. The incumbent said, “There are some people who know nothing but are promising these many jobs. Where will the money come from?” Nitish added that “they might start their own business in the name of providing jobs.”
Tejashwi also pointed out the law and order and health situation in India. While the government had claimed a bettering law and order situation, the actual data indicates an increased crime rate. The RJD leader points to the lack of police personnel as a reason. On top of all of this, the floods this year affected Covid management, migrant labours and the economy.
Analysts believe that the death of former Union Cabinet Minister and Lok Jan Shakti President Ram Vilas Paswan might also influence the situation. Especially since LJS is BJP’s ally only at the centre and not at the state. The party, under the leadership of Chirag Paswan, will contest in 134 seats against Janata Dal. Some sceptics believe that it is a power play by BJP to dampen Nitish’s hold in the state. In fact, during the last election RJD had taken 36 seats from BJP and 25 from JDU. Taking into consideration Nitish’s abandonment of the Mahagathbandhan to join forces with BJP, things are not looking well for the incumbent.
Unemployment, migrant crisis, poor Covid management, floods, increased crime rate, and farmer protests are only the top portion of the electoral iceberg that will affect elections this year. November 10 will reveal people’s decision on the future of the state, but election rallies and speeches are yet to die down in Bihar even as a virus spread through the streets.