State Issues Matter Little in Bihar Polls: By Atul Cowshish

Fissures within the Opposition parties in Bihar are not showing signs of being healed as though they are in league with the ruling alliance to facilitate its victory in the Oct-Nov election. Even the main opposition party, RJD of the jailed Lalu Prasad Yadav, faces internal battles one of which involves the two sons of the Yadav patriarch. One of the siblings is the head of the RJD and is described as the Opposition face of chief minister. Some allies in the so-called Mahagathbandhan of the Opposition parties simply refuse to accept projection of Tejasawi Yadav for the CM post.

The Modi hurricane is again said to be waiting to hit Bihar as it has some other states earlier. The chief merit of Modi Power is that it renders local issues irrelevant as the prime minister becomes the be-all and end-all, be it a assembly or Parliamentary poll.

It has become passé to prejudge a poll outcome on the basis of the ‘governance’ record of the chief minister, when one man alone becomes the focal point. Under chief minister Nitish Kumar, the record of the NDA government in Bihar can hardly be described as impressive. The old problems relating to development, economy, healthcare, education and law and order remain. But there is Modi!

The Bihar government’s record in handling the Covid-19 pandemic has been shoddy though it is not the only state to fall in that category. The chief minister was found to be rather callous in handling the migrant crisis that followed the prime minister’s lockdown order with a four-hour prior notice.
The youth are said to be angry with the Nitish government for its failure to create jobs. The farmers in Bihar may not have agitated as strongly as those of some other states against the NDA government’s agriculture-related legislations but they could not be rejoicing because the misgivings about corporate takeover of farming haunt them too.

None of this is going to matter, if the poll pundits are to be believed. Their optimism is based on Modi’s allegedly irresistible pull on voters and absence of a state leader of the stature of Nitish Kumar.
It appears, the only pre-poll problem that the BJP faces is whether its ally, JD(U), will act tough by demanding allotment of more assembly seats than the BJP. Only by winning more or nearly equal seats with the BJP can the JD(U) have the upper hand in the state after the polls which pollsters have said will result in another five-year term for JD(U) and its leader Nitish Kumar.
Some NDA allies in Bihar, particularly Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, are throwing tantrums for a bigger share in the allotment of seats to be contested. LJP, now headed by Paswan’s son, Chirag, may be overplaying its hands by being too adamant and face the dreaded prospect of being out of power by snapping its tie with the NDA.

Pollsters in Modi’s India predicting BJP victory has by now become almost so routine as to deprive the contest of any excitement and sense of anticipation. The victory forecast can still be found valid even if the BJP or the NDA loses the poll. The BJP has mastered the art of poaching enough numbers from the rival party/parties to emerge victorious after defeat.

If the final outcome can be predicted with so much certainty it makes the Bihar polls somewhat uninteresting. But be prepared for some excitement, largely due to the obsession of most TV channels, also known as Godi Media, with the death of a young Bollywood star who hailed from Bihar.

The cause of the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, as reported on June 14, was suicide in his Mumbai flat. Soon his parents in Bihar said it was a case of abetment to suicide and murder, and named Rhea Chakraborty, a former girlfriend of his and a film star, who was also accused of siphoning off Rs 15 crore from Sushant’s account.

The BJP strategists discovered an unexpected opportunity that could work to the party’s advantage and take revenge on the renegade Shiv Sena in Maharashtra which had jilted the BJP to form a government with rivals NCP and the Congress.

The state of Bihar jumped into the act, hinting at ‘Bihar pride’ being hurt by the Mumbai Police, which could not be trusted to do justice to Bihar’s Sushant Singh Rajput.

An FIR was registered against Rhea in Patna and the state succeeded in getting the case transferred to CBI from Mumbai police. Even as the CBI appeared to be unable to pin Rhea on the ‘murderer’ charge, the case took another twist with a narcotic angle. Currently, it is the narcotic angle which has caught the attention of the mainstream media as the Narcotics Control Bureau has spread its net wide to include several famous Bollywood personalities. Bihar voters are hooked by a saga that witnesses twists and turns every fortnight or so.

Bihar voters are witnessing two potboilers: alleged murder of a famous son of the soil in faraway Mumbai by a scheming Bengali seductress and the unfolding of drug orgies involving a host of glamorous names of that happening city variously described as wicked city and sinful city. The salacious details, as manufactured by the fertile minds in TV studios, will keep the Bihar voters engrossed till the day of the ballot. Who will then like to listen to the tedious poll-time political invocations?

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Journalist, South Asian Analyst