Written by Arshiya Sangar, grade 11 student
The Indian state of Bihar has gone to the polls. Here’s everything you need to know to put the results in context.
A Brief History of Politics in Bihar
Politics in Bihar has historically been quite complex. Caste has played a major role in the political structure of the state. The governance there has hardly been efficient, leading to its reputation as a backward state, where lawlessness and crime abound.
It was due to this state of lawlessness (sometimes referred to as ‘Jungle Raj’) prevailing through the 90s and into the early 2000s that Nitish Kumar (the present Chief Minister), riding on a wave of anti-incumbency (i.e. resentment towards those currently in government), was able to gain the popular vote and hold office for 15 years.
The Players in The Election
The major players in the election have formed alliances, with the two major alliances being the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Grand Alliance (also called the ‘mahagathbandhan’).
The NDA is currently in power, consisting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) [or the JD(U)], the party which the current Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is from, and newer parties like the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) and the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM). Until recently, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), led earlier by the late Ram Vilas Paswan, now by his son Chirag Paswan, was part of the NDA, however, after it refused to concede to their demands on seat share, they left the alliance.
Opposing the NDA, in the Grand Alliance, are the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Tejaswi Yadav, the Indian National Congress (INC, or Congress for short), and the various Left parties i.e. parties left of centre in terms of political ideology, such as the Communist Party of India (CPI), the CPI (Marxist) etc.
Another alliance is the Progressive Alliance. A member of this alliance is the Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) led by Rajesh Ranjan, more popularly known as Pappu Yadav, a key player in local Bihar politics. Another member of the alliance is the Azad Samaj Party (ASP), led by Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, a leader from (and of) the Dalit community who rose to national fame due to his participation in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
What are the Issues of Importance During This Election?
An important theme this election is that of ’15 years vs 15 years’, referring to the 15 years of ‘Jungle Raj’ under the RJD (led at the time by Tejaswi Yadav’s parents, Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mrs. Rabri Devi) and the 15 years under Nitish Kumar’s tenure.
However, the picture painted by this catchy slogan is far from reality. Bihar has shown hardly any improvement in its development indices, having dismal rates of education, and rampant unemployment. The government has failed to take substantive action to deal with Bihar’s annual floods. Owing to COVID-19, the state’s failing healthcare system has come to the forefront, and migrant workers, in a very difficult situation during the lockdown, felt that Mr. Kumar and his government did not do enough to help them. The people of the state were happy with the liquor ban imposed by the government, however, they are underwhelmed by its poor implementation. The lack of infrastructure and corporate investment in the state is another factor that the opposition is focusing its attack on.
How Is The Election Being Conducted?
The election is being conducted in three phases, the first phase being on October 28th, the second on November 3rd, and the last on November 7th.
Voter turnout (the percentage of people who voted out of the total population eligible to vote) for the first phase was 54%, marginally less turnout than in the last election (held in 2015).
Counting of votes and result declaration shall be done on the 10th of November.
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