Asia

Oct 28-Nov 7, Indias 1st polls under Covid shadow in Bihar

NEW DELHI: Bihar is set to make history as it heads into Indias first major election to be held under the shadow of Covid-19. The Election Commission on Friday announced polls to the 243-seat assembly that would test the fortunes of the ruling NDA alliance and the opposition RJD-Congress combine.
The election, to be held over three phases — on October 28, November 3 and November 9 — with counting scheduled for November 10, will be keenly watched even if the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan is seen as the underdog at the starting line.
At the national level, the Modi government has faced unprecedented challenges by way of the impact of the pandemic on healthcare and economy as well as the prolonged military standoff with China — issues that will echo in the assembly polls despite the more usual focus on state and local matters.

While CM Nitish Kumar of JD(U), along with allies BJP and LJP, as well as some new partners, will seek to repeat NDAs impressive performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when it bagged 39 of 40 seats, RJD and Congress will look to exploit what is seen as a certain slackness in governance in Nitishs third term.
NDAs social combination of several non-Yadav OBCs and upper castes is formidable even as RJD has a very handy Yadav-Muslim combine as a starting block. There will be an inevitable element of polarisation as both sides look to consolidate support, and BJP is expected to point to issues like the successful litigation for Ram temple.
If the polls are set to be a test of whether voters feel fatigued with Nitish who rescued the state from the lawlessness under RJD rule, they mark an opportunity for oppositions CM face, Tejashwi Yadav, to prove wrong those who doubt he has the mettle to be a worthy successor to father and RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
In social terms, the elections in the state where caste often trumps other considerations will be a contest between RJDs coalition of Muslims and Yadavs, and the JD(U)-BJPs rainbow bloc of upper castes, non-Yadav OBCs and most backward castes.
For the JD(U)-BJP, this is the first test after the Covid lockdown, which had forced a major migrant crisis, with many workers making the journey back to their homes in Bihar. Around 2.3 lakh migrants who returned to Bihar in the last few months have been added to the Bihar rolls. Approximately, 14 lakh such citizens were already on the rolls. The alliance would hope PM Narendra Modi's popularity and a weak opposition will help it to another win after Kumar returned to the NDA fold in 2017.
Besides the pandemic which has highlighted the pervasive problem of unemployment in one of the countrys most backward states, controversy over the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, military confrontation with China in which Bihar Regiment was involved, and construction of Ram Mandir are expected to be other dominant themes in the fray.
Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said the ECs decision to hold the assembly polls in spite of the pandemic was taken after due deliberation and after studying practices followed by election management bodies across the world. “As the pandemic spread across the world, the first reaction globally was to postpone elections,” he said, adding this was done in over 70 countries.
“However, as days and months passed and the pandemic showed no signs of abating, it became evident that some way will have to be found to balance democratic rights of citizens to choose representatives while making a systematic effort to protect the health and safety of the electors,” he said.
To ensure this balance, the EC had recently issued broad guidelines on holding polls and bypolls safely, with strict social distancing and minimum contact. Number of voters per polling station was reduced from 1,500 to 1,000, taking the strength of polling stations to 1.06 lakh from around 65,367 in 2015. The nomination process has been made fully online. Physical campaigning will be allowed in grounds earmarked by district election officer who will also enforce social distancing norms. Roadshows will be broken into convoys of five vehicles and door to door campaign done by maximum five persons.
With more reliance on digital campaign, the EC will monitor social media posts of parties and candidates closely and initiate appropriate actiRead More – Source