As Bihar gears up to vote, the first full-fledged state assembly election after the Chinese coronavirus pandemic hit, the word on the ground is that the NDA is all set to return to power with the BJP emerging as single largest party. In fact, the support to NDA is more so because of Modi government in centre which has been a boon to the poor in the lockdown where economic activity was hit badly.
Amidst the pandemic, as we stared at uncertainty and hopelessness, the images of hundreds and thousands of migrant workers, especially from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, making their way back from states like Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra filled our screens. So-called experts were quick to draw conclusions that this will affect the upcoming Bihar elections adversely. However, the reality seems to be quite different.
Neeraj Kumar, a political observer from Patna, while speaking to OpIndia said that migrant workers feel that had it not been for the lockdown, more and more people would have died and most would have been the poor like them who could not afford healthcare. “I recently visited six districts of Bihar, where migrant workers had returned during lockdown in large numbers. If there is one thing that has increased their faith in Modi government tremendously it is the food security. The fact that the poor worker did not have to worry about where he will get his next meal when he had no work and no money coming in, made their support for government stronger,” he said.
Migrant workers were mostly unhappy with the states where they had to return from, especially Delhi and Maharashtra. The state governments of these states left them to fend for themselves and with no other option and no money and food, they left for their home states. On foot. Hungry, broken when they reached Uttar Pradesh they finally managed to get food. “It was only when the migrant workers reached Uttar Pradesh they managed food. Arrangement for food was made on the highways. In fact, some even felt they were better treated in Yogi’s Uttar Pradesh than in Nitish’s Bihar,” he added.
It is also why Yogi Adityanath is roped in as one of the star campaigners for Bihar. In fact, Yogi is campaigning in more rural areas than urban where he could communicate to people who got direct help from him and his government during coronavirus crisis, Neeraj Kumar added.
“Whether it was sending Rs 500 to women under the Jan Dhan Yojana or the free ration which is now extended till November or the Shramik Special trains which not only brought them home for free but also gave them food during the journey, the migrant workers whose livelihood depends on daily work have decided to extend their support to Modi. It is because of this that Nitish government may be back,” said Kumar.
The migrant workers, while happy with the BJP, are not too satisfied with the way their own chief minister Nitish Kumar handled the COVID-19 situation. “Nitish Kumar promised jobs under MNREGA, but many of the migrants never got that. Similarly, an app, ‘Bihar Corona Sahayata’ was launched through which Rs 1,000 were to be transferred to workers from Bihar stuck in other states. Here also, perhaps out of 20 who registered, 5 got benefit,” Kumar said explaining how there has been a dissatisfaction amongst people on how Nitish Kumar government handled the pandemic crisis.
“People feel that Modi worked and came to their rescue when Nitish Kumar didn’t,” he said. “Even the central government help of free gas cylinders proved beneficial to the poor and downtrodden. As many as 90% of migrant workers who returned during the lockdown are happy with PM Modi,” he added.
What could work against the BJP is the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act. The Muslim vote which had tilted in BJP’s favour after the passing of Triple Talaq Bill, especially Muslim women, is now gone with the passing of CAA. The protests and misinformation surrounding the Act made the Muslim women wary of BJP again. “In fact, the strategy of letting women lead the protests was more than just a shield against police using force. Women were there to tell the Muslim women who supported Modi for Triple Talaq that Modi still does not care about Muslims. The misinformation regarding the Act furthered their agenda and cut into the votes,” he added.
“People’s faith towards Modi is intact. It is Nitish Kumar whom people are unhappy with. The resentment is such that Chirag Paswan’s LJP (Lok Janshakti Party) might get seats in double digits because those who are upset with JDU but still want BJP to win will now vote for LJP instead,” Neeraj Kumar said.
“The NDA is coming back to power, that is for sure. The BJP will be single largest party with at least 90 seats. And while people want a BJP Chief Minister, it will be left to seen whether Bihar goes Maharashtra way after the results are out,” he concluded.
Bihar Assembly elections for 243 seats will be conducted in three phases between October 28 to November 7. The results will be announced on 10th November.