Contrary to the analyses giving the Bihar ruling NDA a decisive edge over opposition Grand Alliance in upcoming Assembly Election, close examination of reasons presented for reaching to such conclusion reveals a different scenario.
Indeed, in the absence of any thorough ground study which could gauge the public mood in the aftermath of pandemic, the huge influx of migrant labours, and the impact of comparatively longer period of lock down, predicting an Assembly election result which, in any case, is influenced by local issues, would be a hasty analysis if not a prejudiced one.
Criticism does not necessarily determine voting pattern
True, thanks to short public memory– except few issues which affect personally and emotionally– voters tend to forget after initially venting their anger through criticism. Moreover, the potential of caste and social factors swinging votes in the favour of a particular candidate in last hours, regardless of profile or performance of him, make the case further stronger in Bihar.
Yet, comparing the situation emerged post Corona Virus and the subsequent surrender of government machinery with any normal situation could easily lead to wrong conclusions. Besides, most of analyses is based on the opposition’s inadequacy to exploit the situation; however, in absence of any perceptible wave the last minute decision of voters matters, very much.
Indeed, the reality of the tall claim of the turnaround on the development front since Nitish Kumar took over the reign of Bihar has now virtually been exposed. “The scale of migrant labour crisis has raised serious questions on the claims of development as well as Nitish’s being a phenomenal administrator. The fiasco, followed by the failure of government machinery during a fortnight long water-logging in the posh colonies of Patna, dealt a heavy blow on the perception management of Nitish Kumar government”, said Satya Narayan Madan, a social and political analyst.
On the other hand, the total collapse of the health system amidst moderate waves of the pandemic exposed the prevailing state of affairs. Though the state saw late spurt in the pandemic yet no concrete efforts were made during the initial lockdown to resurrect the medical facilities, raising serious question marks on the state leadership.
This, in spite of, the Nitish government got a prior warning last year when Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) took the lives of more than 150 children in a matter of a few days in Muzaffarpur district. In the submission before the Supreme Court, the Bihar government had acknowledged that the state health system does not have the wherewithal to cope up with the epidemic which had spread in Muzaffarpur.
Thus, after such a stark realisation, the question arises as to what steps have been taken to ramp up the health infrastructure in the last one year. And more importantly, why did the government machinery not show the urgency to enhance the medical facilities even though putting the state in lock down four days before the announcement of nationwide lockdown, though the major outbreak of the virus took place here after the process of unlocking came into force on June 8.
Consequently, the state has to impose successive lockdowns for curtailing the spread of pandemic. The closure of economic activities inordinately has inflicted unprecedented misery on the poor people of the state. This along with the return of lakhs of migrant labour in the state has broken the financial backbone of majority of the households.
To argue that the food grains and small monetary assistance provided by the Central and state government will pacify the anger of the people is sheer oversimplification of the ground realities.
Low voter turnout in upcoming Bihar election
Many analysts are of the view that given the Corona Virus outbreak the voting percentage this year will be much lesser which will go into favour of NDA.
However, the major impact on the voting percentage due to the pandemic is likely to confine to the urban areas. It is the well-off educated middle and upper middle class which are able to tweak their lifestyles in order to follow the social distancing and cleanliness norms. This segment of the population is more conscious about their health and strives to avoid free-mixing.
In contrast weaker sections of society are not much alarmed by the havoc caused by the pandemic. For them, earning for their survival is more essential. As the vast rural area has apparently not been much affected by COVID 19 and people are not so panicky the turnout of voters may be much higher than in comparison with urban areas, where the BJP is on a much stronger wicket.
Incidentally, Bihar will have at least 2 million more voters in the upcoming Assembly election because an overwhelming number of students and migrant labourers who had returned after lock down have not gone back to their respective places. This lot has been very vocal against the government since they suffered a lot in the last few months.
Moreover, it is the first time that social media, especially Facebook, is overwhelmed by the state government’s criticism; even the pages associated with the constituents of NDA and their leadership is feeling the heat of people’s wrath. The anger among the younger generation is more pronounced even against PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Man ki Baat’ because he did not touch upon the burning issue of NEET and JEE exam amidst Corona Virus.
In such a scenario jumping on the conclusion that the upcoming Assembly election of Bihar will be a cakewalk for the NDA is not appropriate.
(Shams Khan is contributing editor at the TheNewsweb. Views are personal)