New Delhi, Oct 27 : Even as the electioneering for the first phase of Bihar Assembly elections has ended and polling for 71 seats is slated to be held on October 28, one question uppermost on voters' minds would be -- whose rule for 15 years was better: Nitish Kumar or Lalu Prasad and his wife? The elections for 243 Assembly seats will be held in three phases - for 71 seats on October 28, for 94 seats on November 3, and remaining 78 on November 7. The results will be announced on November 10.
While the NDA, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Janata Dal-United, raked up the 'jungle raj' allegedly prevailing during the 1990s till 2005 when the Lalu family was at the helm, the Grand Alliance of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Left parties opted to set the poll agenda vis-a-vis unemployment, migrant crisis, and floods and sought to question the Nitish Kumar-led government's failures on various fronts.
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi appealed to voters to script a new future in her appeal, but the RJD reminded voters about reverse migration during the Covid lockdown and the alleged inaction of the Centre and state governments during the crisis, apart from unemployment, with a tag line "Bhule nah hain ahankar aur atyachar" (haven't forgotten arrogance and atrocities).
Given the job issue's sensititivity in context of Bihar, Tejashwi has promised ten lakh government jobs if his party returns to power. Initially, the NDA mocked the promise but later the BJP came up with its own promise of 19 lakh jobs. However, the opposition is questioning this promise by asking how many jobs Nitish Kumar created in 15 years and the Modi government in the last six years.
Tejashwi has also attacked Nitish Kumar for his alleged failure to bring industries to Bihar on the pretext that Bihar is a landlocked state. "Now, the BJP leaders claim to get industries in Bihar. When Lalu ji was the Railway Minister, he got established three industries in Chapra, Madhura, and Madhepura in Bihar. I want to ask them (NDA) -- who stopped them from creating jobs? How many jobs were created in the last 15 years?" the RJD leader has asked.
Other issue Tejashwi has been raising is the "caste divide" in Bihar. Addressing a rally in Sasaram district on Monday, he said that the "poor people fearlessly walked in front of Babu Sahab (Rajputs) and other upper-caste people in Bihar when his father Lalu Prasad was the Chief Minister".
However, at the same time, the RJD is also eyeing a pie out of the upper caste votes through its leaders like Jagdanand Singh, and fielding the likes of Anant Singh and Rama Singh.
Though the BJP is allegedly known for polarising voters on Hindu-Muslims lines over the years, the issue does not seem to be resonating in these Assembly elections despite Giriraj Singh bringing up Muhammad Ali Jinnah's name and Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai claiming that Kashmiri militants would take shelter in Bihar if the Mahagathbandhan came to power in the state.
In Bihar, traditionally the upper castes were land owners who employed poor people from the the Dalit and OBC communities before 1990. The situation changed to a large extent after Lalu Prasad came to power in 1990. He belongs to the OBCs and advocated social equality and justice for Dalits and OBCs.
In Bihar, only 19 per cent voters are from the upper castes, while 16 per cent each are Dalits and Yadavs, 17 per cent are Muslims, and remaining 38 per cent Other Backward Classes.
Nitish Kumar has a strong hold in Koiri and Kurmi communities which total around 24 per cent of the Bihar population, but that may not be good enough to given him an edge in the elections. On top of it, the JD-U has also allegedly failed to convince the state's Dalits and Muslims about his credentials.
So, one will have to wait for a few more days to know whose 15-year-long rule finally gets the nod from Bihar voters.
-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text