Bihar is set for a 15:15 electoral match between the incumbent Nitish Kumar government and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led opposition in the upcoming state assembly elections, scheduled to be held in October-November this year.
In November, the ruling National Democratic Alliance(NDA) will be completing its 15 years in power, equalling the time span of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s reign in the state. Little surprise then, the upcoming poll battle will be fought on the inevitable comparisons on various parameters between the different 15-year-long eras of governance by rival coalitions.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in fact, has already begun directing the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leaders and cadres to tell the new generation of voters about what kind of governance Bihar had witnessed and what kind of problems people had to endure during the 15-year rule of the RJD government.
Nitish has started interacting with JD-U’s booth-level party workers of different districts through video conferencing, asking them to apprise the new generation about the state of governance during the reigns of pati-patni (husband-wife), without naming Lalu and Rabri Devi, who had shared the 15-year terms as the chief ministers of the state between 1990 and 2005.
“Ask the Opposition what they did during those 15 years? What was the condition of the roads and the power supply in the state? They might have had electricity in their houses but was it available to the lakhs of other households? What was the budget of the state like back then? Was anything done for infrastructure development or in any other field?” he said while holding an e-conference with the party workers from Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Sheohar, East and West Champaran.
According to Nitish, the new generation ought to know as to what kind of legacy the NDA government had inherited from the RJD after coming to power in November 2005.
He said that the 15-year period preceding his regime was an era of massacres and kidnappings. “Bihar has come out of that period now and the law of the land has been restored,” he said. “It would not be true if someone says Ram Rajya has been established in the state but the situation remained under control in the past 15 years. In this period, curfew was imposed only for two days in only one city in the entire state.”
Exhorting his partymen to give a befitting reply to all the misinformation campaign of the Opposition, he said people had become so disappointed with the previous regime that nobody had expected the kind of development Bihar has seen in the past 15 years . “From 50 per cent reservation to women in panchayat elections to prohibition, we initiated many steps of social reforms,” he said. “We had come to power with a resolve to prove development with justice and we fulfilled it.”
Interestingly, the JD(U)-BJP coalition had come to power precisely on the plank of “jungle raj”, a moniker which was used for the 15-year term of the RJD government, during which the state had witnessed rampant lawlessness.
Nitish’s e-poll campaign assumes significance in view of the fact that his major ally, the BJP, has already kick-started its virtual rallies with Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s ‘Bihar Jan Samvad’ address to the booth-level workers of his party on Sunday. Though Shah had stressed that his e-rally had nothing to do with the coming Bihar elections, he ended up setting the tone for the poll campaign by exuding hope that the Nitish government would again be voted to power by a two-thirds majority.
Though both the ruling parties appear to be bracing for the polls, the Opposition has not yet girded up its loin for the battle. Incarcerated RJD president Lalu Yadav, for one, has taken a dig at Nitish for staying confined to home for the past 83 days. In a tweet, he accused the chief minister of leaving the people of the state in the lurch during the Cornavirus crisis. But his army of leaders led by Tejashwi Yadav do not seem to have risen to the fact that the NDA has already wrested the initiative without formally sounding the poll bugle.