Easterntimes, New Delhi, October 26 : The first election amidst the Corona pandemic is all set to be held on Wednesday as Bihar votes for the first phase of assembly polls on October 28, as campaigning for the first round of voting ended today.
In what is expected to be an interesting battle at the hustings with the incumbent Nitish Kumar led NDA government fighting fatigue that has gathered over the chief minister’s 15-year tenure, and the Covid-related economic down turn, issue of migrant labourers, adding to the ruling regime’s worries and on the hand a lack-lustre opposition trying hard to gather momentum with under the leadership of RJD veteran Lalu Prasad’s son Tejaswi yadav.
The breaking up of the NDA before the polls with Chirag Paswan walking away to counter JD(U) in the fields and supporting BJP covertly, has brought in a new twist to the Bihar tale.
PM Narendra Modi flew down to address as many as three rallies in the first phase, where he urged the voters to vote CM Nitish Kumar back to power.
Curtains came down on October 26 over campaign for 71 Assembly segments of Bihar which go to polls on October 28, in the first phase of elections. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, whose party is contesting the elections in alliance with RJD and three Left parties, addressed two rallies.
BJP stepped up its aggression in the state with a seat-sharing deal with JD(U) that saw the party clinch a 50:50 seat share for the first time. So far, JD(U) has been the senior partner in the state, even as in 2015 the two parties split and Nitish kumar joined hands with Lalu Prasad to defeat BJP.
But halfway down the road Kumar dumped Prasad and returned with the old ally BJP.
Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and party president Jagat Prakash Nadda, repeatedly cited the Ram temple at Ayodhya, scrapping of Article 370 and law against triple talaq as achievements of the government at the Centre and attacked the Opposition for opposing these, in a bid to play the polarising factor among voters.
The 69-year-old Kumar is seeking a fourth term in power, carried out a strenuous campaign which began with a series of virtual rallies and has been followed by dozens of election meetings where he has been physically present, including two where he shared the stage with the Prime Minister.
The normally unflappable Kumar made news on more than one occasion for losing his cool and snapping at protesters from the Opposition camp who turned up at his rallies raising slogans.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who has been named by his party as its Chief Ministerial candidate, also ran an indefatigable campaign which comprised rallies, video messages relayed through the social media and press conferences.
Massive turnouts and enthusiastic response from the crowds at his rallies have been a surprise for political observers who have underscored that the ambience spoke more of the anti-incumbency than the appeal of the former deputy CM (under Kumar).
Another huge draw has been Lok Janshakti Party president Chirag Paswan who stunned all with his decision to go solo in the Assembly polls.
37-year-old Chirag Paswan began campaigning actively rather late, only after the customary mourning after the death of his father Ram Vilas Paswan was over on October 20.
The LJP chief has, thereafter, hit the streets with a vengeance canvassing for his candidates, a sizeable chunk of whom happen to be rebels from the BJP and the JD(U) which he has vowed to dislodge from power in the state while proclaiming loyalty towards the saffron party.
Other prominent leaders who have campaigned in the State so far include Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani, Congress leaders Raj Babbar and Shatrughan Sinha, BSP chief Mayawati and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.
CPI rising star Kanhaiya Kumar also joined the campaign, mainly for candidates of the Left parties.
Besides, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flew down to release the BJP manifesto which promised, among other things, free coronavirus vaccination.
Many prominent leaders fell prey to the contagion while campaigning, which saw them among large numbers of people without necessary vaccinations. These included Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and former Union Ministers Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Altogether 1,066 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of elections, 114 of them females.