Stage set for country's first Covid-era elections in Bihar

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PATNA: The stage is set for India’s first Covid-era elections in Bihar. More than two crore electors will decide the fate of 1,066 candidates on Wednesday across 71 assembly constituencies in the first phase of the three-phase polls.
Of the 2.14 crore electors who will exercise their franchise, 1.01 crore are women and 599 belong to the third gender, as per a data released by the Election Commission here on Tuesday.
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The candidates include 952 men and 114 women, the maximum number (27) being in the fray at Gaya Town and the minimum (5) at Katoria in Banka district.
Among the major political parties, CM Nitish Kumar's ruling JD(U) is contesting in 35 of the 71 seats, followed by its ally BJP (29), Jitan Ram Manjhi’s HAM-S (6) and Mukesh Sahni led VIP (one seat), while the opposition RJD has fielded its candidates in 42 and its coalition partner the Congress and the CPI-ML in 21 and 8 constituencies, respectively.
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is contesting 41 seats, which include all the 35 being contested by the JD(U), in keeping with the call given by its president Chirag Paswan, who recently pulled out of the NDA in the state, and launched a targeted campaign “Asambhav Nitish” (Nitish Impossible) to “dislodge” the JD(U) chief from the chair of the CM.
For Nitish (69), who is in the power since November 2005 and seeking a fourth consecutive term on the promises of “doing more development works” under his ‘Saat Nischay Part-2’ programme, this election has turned out as a “most prestigious battle” as the opposition Mahagathbandhan’s CM candidate Tejashwi Prasad Yadav (30) is leaving no stone unturned to corner his Nitish ‘Chacha’ on the issue of unemployment.
In fact, Tejashwi has succeeded in making the unemployment one of the main poll issues by announcing to provide “government jobs to 10 lakh youths” by his first signature at the first cabinet meeting after coming into power. This has led to huge turnout of enthusiastic youths at Tejashwi’s all election rallies, causing a concern in the rival NDA camp.
To counter Tejashwi’s announcement to provide “government jobs to 10 lakh youths' ', the rival BJP in its poll manifesto, announced to provide “employment” to 19 lakh youths, giving a more air to the issue of unemployment.
While Nitish is seeking a fourth consecutive term, asking the electors to take a decision on their votes after comparing the development and other welfare works done during the 15-year rule of Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi versus those executed during his the 15 year rule; his ally BJP is making all out efforts to win a major state after its debacles in Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and not-so-happy performance in Haryana in the recent past state elections.
JD(U)’s state working president Ashok Choudhary, who has been accompanying with the Bihar CM in his election campaign, on Tuesday said, “The NDA comprising the JD(U), BJP, HAM(S) and the VIP, would break all previous records of victory in this assembly election and Nitish Kumar would form the next government with two-third majority.”
In the 2015 assembly polls, when Nitish-led JD(U) was an ally of the RJD and the Congress, their Mahagathbandhan then won a thumping victory against the BJP-led NDA, securing 178 seats against the NDA’s 58 seats. But in 2017, Nitish broke away from the grand alliance and joined hands with the NDA. The JD(U), BJP and the LJP, when they were together in the NDA, won 39 of the 40 seats in Bihar in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP national general secretary Bhupender Yadav said the NDA would repeat its Lok Sabha performance of winning 39 of the 40 seats. “The NDA is going to win this election with a three-fourth majority,” he said. But, the LJP is now out of the NDA.
“Whatever votes the LJP will secure in the current election, it will put an adverse impact on the winning prospect of the JD(U) candidates. The LJP may not win too many seats, but it is definitely going to damage the prospects of JD(U) candidates in many constituencies,” said Uday Shankar Choudhary, a poll watcher.
For Tejashwi, this election has given an opportunity to avenge what the JD(U) did to him in 2017 by breaking alliance and re-joining hands with the BJP.
Similarly, former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, RLSP chief Upendra Kishwaha, VIP chief Mukesh Sahni and AIMIM chief Owaisi are making their best efforts to find a toehold.
Polling for the three-phase Bihar assembly election will begin with the first phase of voting on Wednesday, as 71 of the state’s total 243 constituencies will go to polls. Other 94 constituencies will vote in the second phase on November 3, and the rest 78 will vote in the third and final phase on November 7. Counting of votes will be held on November 10.

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