Yashwant Sinha throws hat into electoral battle to 'change Bihar'

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Former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Saturday announced that he would work for a new political alternative in Bihar to replace the Nitish Kumar government due to its “utter failure on multiple fronts”.

Assembly elections are due in Bihar in October-November.

After ousted JD-U leader and poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s ‘Baat Bihar ki’ campaign to usher in change by involving youth and a self-proclaimed chief ministerial candidate for Bihar in the Assembly elections Pushpam Priya Choudhary’s ongoing drive through social media, veteran Sinha’s foray added another twist to the ‘battle of Bihar’ where a range of political parties will be jostling for power.

Sinha, who quit the BJP in April 2018, said at a press conference that the new formation was in the process of making and would contest elections on a common agenda of ‘Is Baar Badlo Bihar’ (Change Bihar this time)’. “The government will have a big role to play in the making of a better Bihar and the present dispensation is incapable to doing it, as has been proved in the last 15 years. The focus is on replacing it with a government that is sensitive to people’s needs,” he added.

A former Union finance minister, Sinha did not rule out the possibility of contesting the elections himself. “I don’t cross my bridges before I get to them. I am known for surprising at times. I have decided to devote the rest of my life for changing Bihar after the worst ever humiliation I have had to face due to heart-ending sight of migrants from Bihar returning to the state braving untold miseries,” he added.

Flanked by former ministers in Nitish Kumar Cabinet Renu Kushwaha, Narendra Singh, former Jehanabad MP Arun Kumar, five-time MP from Jhanjharpur Devendra Prasad Yadav, former MP Purnmasi Ram, former union minister Nagmani and a host of other leaders, including Asfaq Rehman, Imtiyaz Ahmad and former MLA Sidhnath Rai, Sinha said more leaders were in touch with him to give the people of Bihar a viable alternative, “as they were badly looking for one after feeling cheated”. Former Bihar Speaker Uday Naraayan Choudhary is also said to be in touch with Sinha.

“If this is the condition of Bihar 73 years after independence that every year 40-lakh people have to move out in search of livelihood, it speaks a lot about governance. If Bihar remains at the bottom of the human development index (HDI) index and poverty index, has the lowest per capita income of Rs 47541, which is one-third of the national average, and the education and health sectors remain in a deplorable state, there is not much left to explain,” he added.

Himself an alumni of Patna Univeristy, Sinha said the university had been left with barely one or two teachers in several post-graduate departments, as most of the posts had remained vacant in Bihar’s higher education institutions. In the last fiscal, barely 33% of the rural road construction target could be completed. Bihar has barely 1.5% share in industries across the country. And to top it all, there is all-pervasive corruption, with money disappearing from treasury,” he said, in a direct attack on the Nitish Kumar government.

He also urged the Election Commission to consider the prevailing situation before deciding whether it would be proper to hold elections. “Virtual campaigns and digital voting are mere tools of cheating the people. It will be heavily loaded in favour of rich parties. Besides, one never knows what shape Covid-19 would take. It may peak in October-November. Right now, there is hardly any testing in Bihar, but the figure has gone past 8,000. There will also be flood scenario in 21 districts. The EC has to take a call taking everything into consideration,” he added.

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