Bihar assembly election 2020: Many challenges ahead for NDA
The NDA hopes to repeat its 2019 national poll performance in the state when it swept Bihar and won 39 out of the state’s 40 seatsUpdated: Sep 25, 2020, 17:02 IST
The Bihar assembly elections are being held in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, and a sagging economy, which are among the challenges the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) faces along with infighting among its constituents. The NDA hopes to repeat its 2019 national poll performance in the state when it swept Bihar and won 39 out of the state’s 40 seats.
The NDA will also have to overcome the anti-incumbency factor to retain power in the state under chief minister Nitish Kumar’s leadership. Kumar has ruled the state for 15 years continuously barring for a year when he handed over the reins to Jitan Ram Manjhi in 2014.
The NDA will see a win in Bihar as an endorsement to its programmes nationally including the farm reforms that have triggered protests. A win for the NDA will further demoralise and disunite the opposition.
Political analyst D M Diwakar said if the NDA wins, it will be an endorsement to the Centre’s and state’s development agenda and make the alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal (United), or JD (U), stronger. “It is an election where migrants will speak their mind,” said Jha.
Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora on Friday said 230,000 migrant workers, who have returned to Bihar after losing their jobs because of the pandemic, have been added to the updated voters’ list in the state.
Jha said a win in Bihar will also help the BJP in Bengal elections due next year.
The Bihar elections are crucial for the BJP as it has suffered electoral setbacks after retaining power at the Centre with a bigger majority in 2019. It was unable to form the government in Maharashtra despite emerging as the single largest party following disagreements with its oldest ally, Shiv Sena, over power-sharing. In Haryana, it could form the government only after Jannayak Janata Party’s support. The BJP was voted out of power in Jharkhand in December 2019 and also lost the polls in Delhi in February.
The BJP, which is trying to keep the NDA intact, is also under pressure to contest more seats than JD (U). “The BJP sacrificed its five Lok Sabha seats to give equal seats to the JD (U). Now, it is the turn of the JD (U) to reciprocate the gesture,” said a BJP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The BJP regained power in the state when the JD (U) returned to the NDA fold in 2017. It contested 157 assembly seats in 2015 and won 53 with a vote share of 24.42%. JD (U), which was then a part of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led alliance, won 71 of the 101 seats it contested, with a vote share of 16.83%.
The NDA has been in a spot of bother as Chirag Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has been at odds with the JD (U) leaders and threatened to put up 143 candidates. In the 2015 assembly election, the LJP in alliance with the BJP contested 42 seats but could win only two with 4.83% votes. The LJP performed best in the 2005 assembly elections when it contested 178 seats, won 29, and bagged 12.62% votes.
Caste has always played a major role in Bihar. “This is the election which will see the shift from backward-centric politics to Dalit-centric politics in Bihar coupled with development with justice,” said BJP lawmaker and former Union minister Sanjay Paswan.
It is here where Kumar hopes to do well. Dalits account for 16% of Bihar’s population. Half of these are from Paswan’s Dusadh community. LJP has enjoyed relatively stable support from this section since it was formed in 2000.
Kumar introduced sub-quotas for Mahadalits and gained support among non-Dusadh Dalits. The return of Jitan Ram Manjhi, who belongs to the Mahadalit Musahar community, to the NDA has strengthened his position.
Kumar is also banking on over 30 million women voters thanks to the popularity of his prohibition move among them.
There are also over 10 million voters in the 18-29 age bracket. They could turn out to be a challenge for the NDA given the lack of employment opportunities.