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Saturday, December 05, 2020

Campaigning ends, Nitish Kumar signs off: My last election

Meanwhile, lending his weight to Nitish, PM Modi issued a letter to the people of Bihar on Thursday, saying he needed the JD(U) CM to ensure progress in the state, and said he was glad that “the focus in Bihar polls has been on development”.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Purnea | Updated: November 6, 2020 2:14:55 pm
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during an election meeting, in Darbhanga, (PTI)

Wrapping up his campaign for the Bihar Assembly polls, in which he has been overshadowed both by ally BJP and rival RJD, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday sought votes saying this election was his “last”.

Addressing a rally at Dhamdaha in Purnea district, the three-time JD(U) CM, who has been the face of Bihar since 2005, said, “Today is the last day (of campaign for the final phase of Assembly elections). Polling will take place the day after tomorrow. This is my last election.”

Lending his weight to Nitish, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a letter to the people of Bihar on Thursday, saying he needed the JD(U) CM to ensure progress in the state, and said he was glad that “the focus in Bihar polls has been on development”.

Campaigning for sitting Dhamdaha JD(U) MLA Leshi Singh, Nitish, 69, said, “Aur jaan lijiye, aaj chunaav ka aakhri din hai aur parson chunaav hai. Aur yeh mera antim chunaav hai. Ant bhala, toh sab bhala (And remember, today is the last day of campaigning, and day after are the polls. This is my last election. All is well that ends well).”

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In his open letter in Hindi, Modi listed several Central government schemes and said people have faith that only the NDA can work for the state’s development. “I need the Nitish Kumar government to ensure that there is no paucity in Bihar’s development and the welfare schemes continue uninterrupted… I have full faith that the power of ‘double engine’ will take Bihar to new heights.”

Modi also expressed satisfaction that “development had been the focus of the polls”. He said votes are being cast “not on caste, but on development; not on false promises, but on firm intentions; not on kushasan, but sushasan; not on corruption, but on honesty; not on opportunism, but on the vision of self-reliance”. Stressing on “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”, he said the NDA considers every citizen to be a partner in the country’s progress. “Whether young or old, poor or farmers, people of every section of society are coming forward to bless (the NDA).”

Both the PM, who addressed 12 rallies in Bihar, and the BJP have drawn on the Ram temple, CAA, Article 370 and border tensions for their campaign.

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On Wednesday, the same day as Nitish sought to address fears over the CAA in Muslim-dominated border region of Seemanchal that votes on Saturday, the BJP’s Yogi Adityanath said at a rally in Katihar, “Modiji has found a solution to the infiltration problem in the form of the CAA… Those infiltrators who try to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the country will be thrown out.”

The Opposition pounced on Nitish’s remarks of this being his last election to say these showed he had “finally heard the message on the ground”. Tejashwi Yadav, the Opposition’s chief ministerial candidate, said, “Nitishji was not ready to accept either the aspirations and hopes of Bihari people, or the ground realities. We have been saying from the start that he is now tired and today, finally before the final phase, he has accepted defeat and announced his retirement from politics, proving us right.” RJD MP Manoj Jha said, “During this entire campaign, Nitish failed to understand what the young people want.”

LJP president Chirag Paswan said Nitish’s remarks further underlined that people should not vote for him. “This time he gave no account of his last five years and has now said he will not be back to give an account next time. Do not give your vote to someone who will not come back for your blessings. In the next elections, neither will sahib (Nitish) remain nor the JD(U)… Every vote given to a JD(U) candidate is a (vote) forcing your child to migrate… Give your blessings to BJP and LJP candidates,” Paswan said, adding that Nitish could be hoping to escape a “corruption investigation”.

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Nitish’s campaign for a fourth term has seen heavy anti-incumbency, discontent over the economic distress caused by the coronavirus and lockdown, an increasingly ambitious BJP, confusion wrought by the LJP among NDA voters, protests at his rallies causing him to lose his cool, and an enthusiastic opposition. Thursday’s letter by Modi might also reinforce the impression that the BJP now holds the levers in the power balance with the JD(U).

After focusing his attack on the RJD’s “jungle raj”, in the past few days, the JD(U) chief has been talking of the work his government has done, including for women and the minorities. The moderation is seen to be driven by the traction Tejashwi has been getting with his promise of 10 lakh government jobs.

Before he became the CM, Nitish had served as Union minister several times, and held important portfolios.

In the third and final phase Saturday, polling will be held on 78 seats, spread across 19 north Bihar districts, with 2.35 crore voters and more than 1,200 candidates in the fray, including the Speaker and some members of the Nitish Cabinet.

The results for the 243-member Assembly are due on November 10.

with ENS, Delhi

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