It is India’s first major ‘Covid’ election, and could turn out to be among the most consequential in recent times. The Assembly election in Bihar could potentially signal the fading of the narrative of Mandal that has dominated the politics of the state for three decades now.
Elections in Bihar are tracked closely because national trends are often incubated and accentuated in this intensely political state. The polling which begins on October 28 is going to be especially crucial.
It will be a major test of strength for the ruling regime at the Centre after it won a second mandate in 2019 and effected sweeping changes over the last year, from removing Jammu and Kashmir’s special status to amending the citizenship law. The polls are also an opportunity for an Opposition that has been struggling to find its voice.
Incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is looking for a fourth term in a political climate shaped by a three-term incumbency, a perceived plateauing of the state’s turnaround story, the migrants’ crisis which made itself seen and heard in the Covid-19 lockdown, the separation of the LJP from the National Democratic Alliance in the state, and a re-ordering of the Janata Dal (United)’s own pact with the BJP.
Could the election herald the arrival of a new generation — Tejashwi Yadav and Chirag Paswan, political heirs of Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan — of leaders in Bihar and indeed, North India?
Will the BJP be able to finally establish Hindutva as the state’s dominant political narrative?
What role will caste, traditionally the key to voting in Bihar, play? And will the context of the pandemic matter in the direction in which Bihar chooses to go?
To answer these and many other questions, The Indian Express has invited Suhas Palshikar, one of India’s most insightful political scientists, at the next edition of Explained.Live, the unique series of explanatory conversations that The Indian Express hosts from time to time. Prof Palshikar will be speaking with National Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra.
Expert Guests at Explained.Live sessions since the lockdown began have included IIT-Delhi Director Ramgopal Rao, Kerala’s Health Minister K K Shailaja, Public Health Foundation of India president Dr K Srinath Reddy, industrialist Dr Naushad Forbes, capital markets expert Nilesh Shah, medical scientist Dr Gagandeep Kang, Mahesh Vyas, MD and CEO of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, and Sajjid Chinoy, J P Morgan’s Chief India Economist and part-time member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister.
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