From Free Vaccine to First Signature, These 5 Statements Sum Up the Bihar Campaign So Far
RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav addresses an election rally for the upcoming Bihar assembly elections, in Munger district, on October 24, 2020. (PTI Photo)
Campaigning for the first assembly election post lockdown was marked by high-voltage rhetoric. From Chirag Paswan hoping for a "#Nitish-free government' to Modi warning voters against those who made Bihar 'Bimaru', barbs have been flying thick and fast almost every day in the politically crucial state of Bihar.
- Last Updated: October 25, 2020, 19:51 IST
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After nearly a month of campaigning, Bihar is set to line up at polling booths in the first phase of polling in less than 48 hours. Voting will be held for 71 seats on October 28, and polling is scheduled to be finished in all 243 assembly constituencies within the next fortnight.
Campaigning for the first assembly election post lockdown was marked by high-voltage rhetoric. From Chirag Paswan hoping for a "#Nitish-free government' to Modi warning voters against those who made Bihar 'Bimaru', barbs have been flying thick and fast almost every day in the politically crucial state of Bihar. News18 looks at six such statements that, in some measure, give a sense of the sort of campaigns that the bigger parties have led in Bihar so far.
1. "Mera pehla kalam chalega to ek saath dus lakh yuvaon ko sarkaari naukri milega": Tejashwi Yadav
This is the one poll statement that can be credited to have in many ways set the agenda of this election. So potent has been the response to the issue of unemployment that Tejashwi Yadav has led with in this campaign, that after ridiculing him for promising the moon, BJP itself came out promising almost double the number of jobs. Tejashwi's agenda remained at the top when Nitish mocked him, saying “If you give jobs to 10 lakh people on the very first day of taking over as Chief Minister, how will you pay them? ‘Nakli note chaapoge? Ya jail se paisa aayega?’ (Will you publish fake currency? Or, will you bring fund from the jail)?”
Tejashwi has since explained that 40% of the unspent budget of the state is enough to fund his promise. Though there is a lot valid criticism about how real this poll promise is, many political observers say they're happy that it at least is helping people rise above their differences of caste, which used to dominate poll discourse in the previous campaigns.
"I have been travelling across many constituencies for several days now. And I can tell you that caste barriers are melting at several places for the youth. Tejashwi perhaps knows the promise may not be deliverable. Even the young know that all 10 lakh jobs may not materialise. But he is at least talking about jobs and that is good enough for a lot of young people," says Kanhaiya Bhelari, a senior journalist and managing editor of a Bihar focussed news portal called Newshaat.
Given that half of the 7.18 crore voters are under the age of 39, this poll sop, which Tejashwi keeps repeating in every rally, has naturally become wildly popular. More so because he emphasises every time that these would be "government" jobs, the sort that still lends a sense of security to India's middle-class.
2. "Agar padhna chahte ho toh apne baap se pucho…apni maata se pucho…kahin koi school tha, ya ban raha tha": Nitish Kumar
This was short uncharacteristic outburst from the Chief Minister in a rally at Alauli. In a way Nitish Kumar, who also doesn't fail to remind women, and people from Extremely Backward Classes, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, about how the reservations introduced by him brought them into the political mainstream. He is also trying to impress the crucial, 50% young electorate, a lot of who, he knows, have not lived through the 'jungle raj' that he talks about in all his rallies.
In opposition to Tejashwi Yadav's 10 lakh jobs promise, Nitish is brandishing his second installment of '7 Nishchay', the first of which he released in 2015 assembly elections. As part of this program, Nitish has promised financial incentive of Rs 25,000 for females passing Class 12 exams and Rs 50,000 those for passing graduation, and 50 per cent grants for entrepreneurs, up to a maximum of Rs 3 lakhs, for setting up a new business.
3. "Nitish Kumar will be next Chief Minister of Bihar": Amit Shah
In an interview to News18, senior BJP leader and former party president, Amit Shah officially put an end to all speculations about strife between the two ruling coalition partners - BJP and JD(U). No matter which NDA constituent, BJP or JD(U), got more seats, Shah clarified, NDA's choice of CM will not change.
"I have said this publicly as party chief. Naddaji [JP Nadda, the present BJP national president] has also said this. So there are no two ways about it, no doubts about it. Elections are being fought in Bihar under the leadership of Shri Nitish Kumar and that Narendra Modi is NDA's tallest leader. Whatever rumours are being floated, I want to put a full stop to them. Nitish Kumar will be the next Chief Minister of Bihar," Shah said in his exclusive interview with Editor-in-chief Rahul Joshi.
Before Shah many NDA leaders, including deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi and party general secretary Bhuprendra Yadav have also asserted that there was no ambiguity over the choice of CM in NDA.
"The thing is BJP cannot afford to see a repeat of Maharashtra, and lose their primary alliance partner because of mistrust between the two parties. BJP is under pressure on many national issues. Their ally in Punjab has also deserted them. At this point BJP is playing a 'no risk no gain' game. They just want to retain what they have without disturbing the status quo," feels Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, former Patna University teacher and political analyst.
4. "Every ‘Biharwaasi’ will get free [Covid-19] vaccination”: BJP manifesto
While introducing her party's manifesto in Patna on October 22, Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the part of the 11 point 'Sankalp Patra' released by BJP, which promised free Covid-19 vaccination for all Biharis when NDA comes to power. The promise generated a huge controversy with opposition claiming that the BJP was trying to sell vaccine, which was the right of every Indian, for votes. RJD said that this poll promise showed desperation of BJP.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had also taken potshots at the ruling party. In a tweet, Gandhi had said, “GOI just announced India’s Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when will you get it, along with a hoard of false promises."
Defending the poll promise, the Union Finance Minister claimed that the contentious poll sop was "perfectly in order" because it was a policy decision. “It is a manifesto announcement. A party can announce what it wants to do when it comes to power. That is exactly what is announced. Health is a state subject. It is perfectly in order,” Nirmala Sitharaman told media on Saturday.
5. "Fir Ek Baar NDA Sarkaar": Narendra Modi
In his first election rally after the outbreak of the pandemic, Modi took on the opposition leaders, most apparently Tejashwi Yadav, when he said, "It happens in every election that before the polls one or two big faces suddenly crop up and are shown to be bigger than they actually are. But these things never affect polling. Bihar’s electorate is so clever that they will not fall for such rumours and myths."
In his first rally at Sasaram, Modi also attempted to address the problem of Nitish Kumar’s 15 years of anti-incumbency, when he claimed that it was only over the last three to four years, after being elected to power at the centre, that he got an opportunity to work with the Bihar Chief Minister and projects were running at several times their normal speed.
The biggest crowd puller in the NDA's list of star campaigners, whose mere presence on the ground is believed to sway elections, tried to steer the assembly elections towards national issues when he described the opposition leaders as "obstructionist".
In response, Rahul Gandhi who was addressing a rally with Tejashwi Yadav in Hisua, said that it was the Prime Minister himself who had disrespected the soldiers by refusing to throw out Chinese forces "occupying" Indian soil. Rahul Gandhi also criticised Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar for not extending enough help to thousands of hungry and thirsty migrant labourers who had to walk down from far off places to their homes in Bihar. He also took on the union and state governments on the issue of employment, saying that none of the 2 crore jobs that Modi had promised had materialised.