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Bihar is one of the country’s poorest states and lags on most development indicators, but its massive population makes it politically significant. With some 104 million people -- the entire population of Egypt -- it accounts for 40 seats in the 545-member lower house of federal parliament giving it outsize national influence. The state is currently ruled JD(U)-BJP coalition and the election will be the first political test of how voters view PM Modi's handling of the pandemic and the economic crisis and joblessness it has spawned.

Bihar state assembly elections began 28 October 2020 and ran into November 2020. The counting of votes will happen on November 10. The Election Commission was likely to announce the poll schedule in the last week of August, soon after the flood season was over. Filing of nominations, scrutiny and withdrawal of names will take place in September while voting, in multiple phases, began from the last week of October. The EC had to keep festivals like Dussehra, Diwali and Chhath in mind before finalising the dates for multiple phases of polling.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) and its allies, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are aiming to retain power in the state. The ruling coalition is being challenged by the ‘Grand Alliance’, of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ comprising Tejashwi Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Congress and other smaller parties. The election is the first test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
A strict nationwide lockdown has resulted in the country’s worst economic downturn in decades and both unemployment and virus infections have soared. India trails only the US as the nation with the most highest case tally.

The Assembly election in Bihar is significant because the poll outcome will decide whether Nitish Kumar would become Chief Minister again (for the fourth time in a row). Or possibly the RJD, which emerged as the single largest party during the 2015 Assembly polls, will stop the NDA in its tracks through Grand Alliance, also called Mahagatbandhan.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhisaid 28 October 2020 there was anger among small shopkeepers, youths, farmers and labourers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national level and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar. Addressing his second poll rally of the day at Kusheswar Asthan in Darbhanga, the former Congress president also said it was sad that Prime Minister Modis effigy was burnt in Punjab on the occasion of Dusshera. "You didnt get to see it perhaps because Nitishji and Modiji control the media," he alleged.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the Opposition and even went ahead to term the Mahagathbandan's chief ministerial candidate, Tejashwi Yadav, as "Yuvraaj of Jungleraj" (Prince of Jungleraj) - the era of former chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) founder Lalu Prasad Yadav's rule in the state is often referred to as 'Junglreraj' by its opponents. "I want to know from the people of Patna, I want to know from the people of Bihar, could Bihar dream of becoming an IT-hub in Jungle Raj? Whether 'Yuvraj of Jungle Raj', he can take Bihar forward in the field of IT, or in any area of modernity," PM Modi said at the rally held in Patna.

The electoral dynamics in Bihar changed midway in 2017 after Nitish, who won the 2015 Assembly elections in alliance with the RJD and the Congress, dumped the Mahagatbandhan (in July 2017) and joined hands with the same BJP which he had decisively defeated in a prestigious battle with Narendra Modi.

Though the Opposition cried foul and charged Nitish with hijacking the mandate, much water has flown down the Ganga since 2015. The clean sweep by NDA during 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when it won 39 out of 40 parliamentary constituencies in Bihar, provided the clearest evidence that Nitish-Modi combination is a sure shot recipe for success in this part of the cow-belt.

The Nitish-led NDA regime in Bihar was in an advantageous position as the JD (U), BJP and the LJP present as a cohesive unit. Together, they command more than 40 per cent of the votes. On the other hand, Grand Alliance is neither ‘Grand’ nor there is much proper alliance between its constituents – RJD, Congress, Upendra Kushwaha-led RLSP (Rashtriya Lok Samata Party), Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM (Hindustan Awam Morcha) and VIP (Vikasheeel Insaan Party) headed by Mukesh Sahni, who belongs to the numerically-strong Mallah (boatmen) community.

The master strategist of the Mahagatbandhan in 2015, Lalu Prasad, is cooling his heels in Ranchi, serving a jail sentence in the fodder scam. This compounded the problem for the faction-ridden Mahagatbandhan. But then, if Lalu is enlarged on bail (he had already been granted bail in all cases except one), the entire poll dynamics could eventually change.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was on 06 October 2019 re-elected as Janata Dal (United) president unopposed for a fresh term of three years. Nitish was nominated the JD(U) president for the first time on October 04, 2016. His election was ratified at the party’s national council meet at Rajgir (Bihar) on October 16, 2016.

Several NDA leaders including Bihar deputy CM and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, congratulated Nitish on being elected unopposed as JD(U) chief for the second consecutive term. “Nitish Kumar’s unopposed re-election on the top post of JD(U) will strengthen the NDA. Nitish has given a new height to the politics of ‘development with justice’,” Sushil Modi said in a statement. State’s water resources department (WRD) minister Sanjay Jha also congratulated Nitish on his re-election. “Under the able leadership of Nitish Ji, the JDU will form the next government in Bihar in 2020 and once again he will become the CM. Nitish Kumar Ji is a visionary leader. He is one of the best political figures in the country”.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was elected as president of Janata Dal (United) on 10 April 2016 for the first time. Kumar’s elevation to the post is critical for the ruling party in Bihar as it attempts to increase its political presence in other states. With Kumar taking the top post, the 10-year tenure of former JD (U) chief and veteran Sharad Yadav comes to an end. Yadav, who had announced earlier that he would not seek another term, resigned as president. The decision to elect Kumar was taken at the party’s national executive meeting in the national capital.

Interestingly, the 65-year-old Kumar was JD (U)’s first chief from Bihar. Previous presidents Yadav and George Fernandes did not originally belong to the state. Kumar had stepped down as chief minister of the state after 2014 Lok Sabha election, but soon took over the reins again from former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.

In 2015, the JD (U) in a successful coalition with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress party won the Bihar assembly elections, with Kumar becoming the chief minister of the state.

It was under Yadav’s tenure that the JD (U) broke away from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Yadav is a founding member of the JD (U) and had been the president of the party since 2006 when he took over from George Fernandes and was re-elected in 2009 and 2013.

The topmost priority of the government had been to establish the rule of law by improving the law and order. Without bias and prejudice and by following the legal provisions and procedures have controlled crime and made the criminals ineffective, the impact of which can be seen in all spheres. Organised crime has also been stringently brought under control. In co-ordination with the courts, speedy trial system was introduced and many criminals have been convicted by the court. In keeping with the ratio of the population, attention was paid to the appointments in police and equipping it with essential resources and also its modernisation. Wherever the anti social elements tried to create conflict or communal tension, the government controlled the situation by immediately entering into dialogue with the people and taking their cooperation along with administrative intervention.

Conventional policy matters, high density of population, backwardness in infrastructure, lack of investment and minerals and the state being landlocked were obstacles in industrialisation. Over 89 percent of state's total population resides in villages and 76 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:50:49 ZULU