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Monday, November 23, 2020

Curtains on Bihar polls first phase campaigning: Highlights from both camps

On October 28, Bihar will vote for 71 seats. While RJD is contesting on 42 of these seats, JD(U) has candidates in 41, BJP 29, Congress 21 and LJP in 41 places.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 26, 2020 11:55:16 pm
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Campaigning for the first phase of Bihar elections ended Monday, with 71 seats set to go to polls on October 28. The campaign so far has been high-voltage, with the NDA seeking to balance two heavyweights – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar – while the Opposition’s charge has been led by the young Tejashwi Yadav.

Here are the key highlights of the Bihar election campaign so far for all the major contestants.

NDA

The NDA campaign on the face of it looks formidable, with PM Modi flying down to address as many as three rallies, where he raked up issues like the Galwan Valley clash and the scrapping of Article 370, seeking to paint the Opposition as those who back ‘anti-India’ forces.

Nitish Kumar, meanwhile, stuck to his government’s track record, and vowed to push ahead with development schemes. However, on more than one occasion, the CM lost his cool on stage, berating those chanting pro-Lalu Yadav slogans at his rallies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) President Nitish Kumar during an election rally, in Sasaram, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (PTI)

From the BJP, star campaigners like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and party president Jagat Prakash Nadda repeatedly cited Ram temple at Ayodhya, scrapping of Article 370 and the law against triple talaq as achievements of the government at the Centre.

The BJP this time has managed to wrest a 50-50 seat sharing arrangement from the JD(U), a sign of its rising clout within the alliance despite having no CM face of its own.

Queering the pitch for NDA and Nitish is LJP’s Chirag Paswan, the former NDA ally who walked out over seat-sharing, and has since consistently attacked Nitish, while heaping praises on BJP. Chirag recently spoke of jailing Nitish over corruption – something even Tejashwai has not done so far. The perception that LJP is attacking Nitish at the BJP’s behest has created mistrust among the workers of the two parties on ground, and is leading to coordination issues.

One of the key promises in the BJP manifesto – free vaccination for Covid-19 – fetched the party major criticism, with the Opposition accusing it of politicising vaccination for a deadly disease.

Mahagathbandhan

The Opposition camp had looked listless till very recently, caught up in its seat-sharing wrangling. But the LJP’s exit seems to have energised them.

Tejashwi’s 10 lakh government jobs promise in the RJD manifesto has struck a chord with the voters, specially the youth, in a state plagued with unemployment.

Massive turnouts and enthusiastic response from the crowds at his rallies have been a surprise for political observers, and many are reading it more as anti-incumbency against Nitish than the appeal of Tejashwi and RJD.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav addresses an election rally, at Bihpur in Bhagalpur district. (Twitter/RJDforIndia)

Tejashwi’s camp has raised the issue of migrants’ plight during the lockdown in a big way to attack the Nitish government. The Opposition has largely kept its campaign restricted to Bihar’s local concerns, not responding to the BJP’s efforts to turn the discourse towards national issues.

Other notables

Other prominent leaders who have campaigned in the state so far include Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani, Congress leaders Raj Babbar and Shatrughan Sinha, BSP supremo Mayawati and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar also joined the campaign, mainly for candidates of the Left parties.

Besides, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flew down to release the BJP manifesto.

Covid shadow

Many prominent leaders fell prey to the Covid-19 infection while campaigning. These included Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and former Union ministers Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.

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