People with their cattle wade through the floodwater as they move to a safer place, in Gopalganj district, Friday, July 24, 2020.(PTi file photo)
People with their cattle wade through the floodwater as they move to a safer place, in Gopalganj district, Friday, July 24, 2020.(PTi file photo)

Covid to flood: Tracing issues that may impact Bihar polls

The election – which will be held in three phases beginning October 28 --- coincides with the festival season when social distancing norms is difficult to enforce and which might see the return of even more migrant workers to their ancestral villages.
By Arun Kumar | Hindustan Times, Patna
UPDATED ON SEP 26, 2020 11:46 AM IST

The first state to go to the polls after the Covid-19 pandemic struck India, Bihar is struggling to manage not only the disease but also the return of millions of migrant workers. Moreover, floods have inundated 18 of the state’s 38 districts, killing 27 people and displacing over 7 million . The election – which will be held in three phases beginning October 28 --- coincides with the festival season when social distancing norms is difficult to enforce and which might see the return of even more migrant workers to their ancestral villages.

A look at the key issues in these elections:

Covid-19 management

The state has come under some criticism for low testing, though the number has improved in recent weeks to 53670 per million, as compared to the national average of 51713. The positivity rate – a ratio of positive cases compared to total tests – has also fallen from 8.8% in mid-July to 2.7% by mid-September. As the state with the largest chunk of population living in rural areas, Bihar has always ranked low in availability of doctors and hospital beds. The government claims it has ramped up facilities, even in rural areas while the Opposition alleges that hospital beds and emergency services are inadequate.

Migration

The Opposition is trying to play up the distress of nearly 2.5 million migrants who returned to Bihar, pointing to their impoverished condition and alleging that the state government has done little to provide them jobs. The government has launched a slew of projects from fisheries to agriculture and said lakhs of migrants have been provided employment under MGNREGA and other schemes. Migration from Bihar is not a new phenomena but this is the first election where migration and the votes of migrant workers is set to be a decisive factor.

Digital reach

The first big election in the Covid era is happening in a state with relatively low internet and telephone penetration. This will affect campaigning as big rallies and public meetings will not be possible. That will mean a paradigm shift in electioneering and greater dependence on technology. Teledensity — the number of telephone connections per hundred people in a given area — is the lowest in Bihar. Internet penetration in Bihar is 32 subscribers per 100 people, compared to the national average of 54. Mass media exposure, too, is poor.

Flood havoc

Floods are cause of perennial sorrow in Bihar, where 28 of the 38 districts are marked flood-prone. This year, though, the floods were more severe than usual and affected the state at a time when people were already struggling to deal with the pandemic and lockdown. At least 8.3 million people in 16 districts were displaced, and many are living in relief camps still. The Opposition has claimed politicization of relief, while the government has blamed earlier regimes for weak embankments and corruption.

Law & order

This is an issue very close to the heart of chief minister Nitish Kumar, who first came to power in 2005 with the pledge to improve the law and order in the state after 15 years of Rashtritya Janata Dal (RJD) rule. But a spate of petty crimes and murder cases has emboldened the RJD-led Opposition. A war of words between government and Opposition leaders has ensued.

Jobs

Job creation was another central election plank of the Kumar administration. His government claims to have provided jobs to lakhs of migrants through MGNREGA and various other development schemes, but the Opposition says the youngsters and poor continue to suffer due to joblessness.

Dalit and minority votes

Scheduled castes form 16% of the state, and they are set to play a decisive role in the state elections. The changing political dynamics are also underlined by leaders such as Jitan Ram Manjhi and Shyam Razak, who have moved from the Opposition alliance to the NDA, as well as the Lok Janshakti Party, which is driving a hard bargain with the BJP. In 2015, the Grand Alliance’s victory was attributed, in part, to the solid backing it received from the Muslim community that forms 16.87% of the state’s population. This time – in the absence of emotive issues such as Ram temple or Citizenship (Amendment) Act – and a fractured Opposition, how minorities vote – especially in the Seemanchal region – is difficult to predict.

Farm bills

This will be the first election after the contentious farm bills were passed in Parliament, triggering protests across India. Bihar had dissolved all agriculture marketing committees and marketing boards in the state in 2006 after repealing the state APMC Act. Kumar has already said it improved procurement, while the Opposition is on the streets in protest.

Education

Education has always been a big issue in Bihar. The ruling dispensation takes pride in a chain of national and state-level institutions, including medical colleges, engineering colleges and polytechnics, that were created during the NDA regime, the Opposition is focusing on the poor quality of school teaching.

Sushant Singh Rajput case

Over the past three months, the debate over the controversial death of the 34-year-old actor has roiled Bihar and captured the imagination of people. With the actor’s family filing an FIR, prominent politicians supporting the demand for prosecuting actor Rhea Chakraborty and her family and the possible entry of former top cop Gupteshwar Pandey into politics, the fractious issue may have an impact on campaigning and polls.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
app
Close
A Mirage 2000 fighter jet. (File photo)
A Mirage 2000 fighter jet. (File photo)

Apart from Rafale jets, Indo-French air exercise to feature Su-30s, Mirage 2000s

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:14 PM IST
The five-day joint exercise, codenamed Desert Knight-21 is being held at the Jodhpur air force station beginning Wednesday
Close
BJP leader and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose said the day should be observed as Desh Prem Diwas (day of patriotism). (ANI)
BJP leader and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose said the day should be observed as Desh Prem Diwas (day of patriotism). (ANI)

Designation of Netaji’s birth anniversary as Parakram Diwas criticised

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:08 PM IST
BJP leader and Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Kumar Bose said the day should be observed as Desh Prem Diwas (day of patriotism)
Close
Anil Ghanwat (one of the members of the committee set up by SC) speaks to media on SC on Agriculture Laws, in Pune on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)
Anil Ghanwat (one of the members of the committee set up by SC) speaks to media on SC on Agriculture Laws, in Pune on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)

Supreme Court-appointed panel to meet farmers on Jan 21

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:08 PM IST
The Supreme Court had on January 12 suspended the pro-reforms farm laws approved by Parliament in September 2020 and also appointed a committee to look into farmers’ grievances over the laws.
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Bangladesh says it will get 2 million doses of Covishield from India as ‘gift’ tomorrow

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:04 PM IST
The government had held a virtual meeting with the two Indian manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines – Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech – on Monday to review the supply of vaccines to foreign countries
Close
Cardinals said they have been asking for an invite to the Pope for quite some time and expressed hope it will be realised soon.(PTI)
Cardinals said they have been asking for an invite to the Pope for quite some time and expressed hope it will be realised soon.(PTI)

Cardinals meet PM Modi, urge him to invite Pope Francis

PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:01 PM IST
The meeting was part of the PM’s interaction with various church heads initiated by Mizoram Governor PS Sreedharan Pillai.
Close
Dr V Shanta passed away on Tuesday morning. (@VPSecretariat/Twitter )
Dr V Shanta passed away on Tuesday morning. (@VPSecretariat/Twitter )

Unfathomable loss: Tamil Nadu governor condoles death of oncologist Dr V Shanta

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Kanishka Sarkar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:58 PM IST
Dr V Shanta played an important role in the development of the Cancer Institute from a cottage hospital of 12 beds to a major comprehensive Cancer Centre of national and international stature.
Close
A medic worker shows Covishield vials during Covid-19 vaccination programme, at BAPS Hospital in Surat, Gujarat. (File photo)
A medic worker shows Covishield vials during Covid-19 vaccination programme, at BAPS Hospital in Surat, Gujarat. (File photo)

Covishield not being sold under $3 per dose anywhere in the world, says SII

By Steffy Thevar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:53 PM IST
The government has purchased the first batch of 11 million doses for 210 per dose, said SII, adding that the cost includes GST
Close
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance penalises religious conversions through fraudulent means including those for the sake of marriage.(Representative image)
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance penalises religious conversions through fraudulent means including those for the sake of marriage.(Representative image)

Man arrested under Madhya Pradesh's new anti-conversion law

PTI, Barwani
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:48 PM IST
Earlier this month, the state government promulgated the Freedom of Religion-2020 ordinance, which provides for 10 years in jail in some cases.
Close
HT Image
HT Image

We were a preeminent economy, now we are a laughing stock: Rahul Gandhi targets

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:39 PM IST
  • We were a preeminent economy, now we are a laughing stock: Rahul Gandhi targets govt over farm laws
Close
Representational Image. (File photo)
Representational Image. (File photo)

Government writes to WhatsApp, asks it to withdraw new privacy policy

By Deeksha Bhardwaj
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:23 PM IST
It has also issued a detailed questionnaire to WhatsApp seeking more details about its data-sharing protocols and business practices
Close
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses a press conference at AICC office, in New Delhi. Photo by Sanjeev Verma
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addresses a press conference at AICC office, in New Delhi. Photo by Sanjeev Verma

'Tragedy unfolding today in country': Rahul Gandhi on protest over farm laws

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Shivani
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:34 PM IST
"There is a tragedy unfolding today in the country, govt wants to ignore the issue and misinform the country," Rahul Gandhi said while addressing a conference after the release.
Close
KPCC President D K Shivakumar during a press conference at the party office in Bengaluru, Karnataka.(PTI File photo)
KPCC President D K Shivakumar during a press conference at the party office in Bengaluru, Karnataka.(PTI File photo)

Supreme Court shouldn’t stay but scrap farm laws: Congress’s DK Shivkumar

By hindustantimes.com | Written by Kanishka Sarkar
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:04 PM IST
DK Shivakumar said that the Congress party will hold a big protest on Wednesday backing the farmers protesting against legislations enacted in September.
Close
India has 6.8 gigawatts of existing nuclear generation capacity, which accounts for roughly 2% of the nation’s total capacity.(AP representative image)
India has 6.8 gigawatts of existing nuclear generation capacity, which accounts for roughly 2% of the nation’s total capacity.(AP representative image)

India debuts largest nuclear reactor with more planned

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 02:01 PM IST
India is counting on its nuclear program to help meet its Paris climate commitments to reduce the emissions intensity.
Close
Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. (File photo)
Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. (File photo)

Maharashtra mulls police action against Arnab in leaked chats case: State home minister

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 01:59 PM IST
A delegation led by Maharashtra Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant met Deshmukh and demanded action in the leaked chats case. The delegation said the state government has every right to initiate action
Close
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. (HT Archive)
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. (HT Archive)

Subhas Chandra Bose’s birth anniversary to be celebrated as Parakram Diwas

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:05 PM IST
In a gazette notification, the ministry stated that decision was taken to “honour and remember Netaji’s indomitable spirit and selfless service to the nation”
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP