n a paradigm shift in an assembly election jobs have become a major talking point in Bihar. It used to be water, electricity and roads. Not anymore. Days after RJD’s young leader and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s protégé Tejashwi Yadav announced 10 lakh government jobs, BJP went a step further and in its manifesto promised 19 lakh jobs and free coronavirus vaccine.
Tejashwi, in an interview to the media recently, has said that the needs of the times have changed. From ‘social justice’ (a battle cry for the Mulayams and Laloos from the beginning of this century) his call has changed to ‘economic justice’. Though people are well aware of the fact that the job rhetorics are hyperbole, there is a wave of palpable anger and widespread disenchantment among the people of Bihar with the leadership of CM Nitish Kumar.The same was visible a few days ago when a section of people chanted the names of opposition candidates during a rally addressed by the JD(U) leader. Even the Mahadalits who have been unwavering in their support for the Bihar CM of three successive terms are disillusioned. Apart from anti-incumbency, the JD(U) leader is also facing a resilient RJD with its young leader Tejashwi who is drawing huge crowds at his rallies. It’s still early to say whether these crowds would translate into votes but the migrant crisis caused by coronavirus lockdown and widespread unemployment are major headaches for the incumbent CM.
Chirag Paswan, son of late Ram Vilas Paswan, has been scathing in his criticism on Nitish Kumar. The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi while deriding Nitish Kumar. The NDA coalition could not retain the LJP in the pre-poll alliance and that party has fielded candidates against the JD(U).
Interestingly, 21 out of its 134 candidates that the LJP has fielded are former BJP functionaries who are taking on JD(U) on the LJP symbol. Several local BJP leaders have also extended their clandestine support to the LJP instead of the JD(U). These candidates, if elected, would happily return to the BJP fold and Chirag would truly become a one-time flaming torch.
The Bihar CM’s victory in 2005 and 2010 was the outcome of a successful pre-poll coalition that brought various caste groups together with the help of the RJD once and the BJP another time along with other influential local leaders. In 2015, he joined hands with Lalu Prasad, who had his own winning combination of Yadavs and Muslims. He then split from Lalu, whose absence, this time around, should have made the fight easier for the CM, but given the discord within the NDA, that is not the case.