Bihar polls: Nitish Kumar can benefit from virtual campaign amid resistance from Opposition
With assembly elections in Bihar scheduled to take place later this year, political parties in the state have ramped up their efforts to attract voters. However, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, it is likely that the state will witness a mix of both physical and virtual campaigning by political parties.
It is important to note that the Bihar population is losing its trust in the incumbent Nitish Kumar government in view of the stressful and difficult past few months. From Coronavirus pandemic further deteriorating the state’s already-weak public healthcare system to terrible floods and reverse migration worsening the crisis, discontent among the people is increasing for the incumbent NDA government in the state.
Amid these circumstances, holding virtual rallies is likely to be advantageous for Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, noting that government machinery is in his hands. At the same time, opposition parties such as Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, and CPI(M) have reportedly urged the Election Commission (EC) to not allow digital rallies alleging that it will disrupt the level-playing field during the poll campaigning. Significantly, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal largely depends on in-person and regional campaigning to attract more visitors. Due to lack of resources for virtual campaigning and COVID-19 pandemic, several opposition parties have also called for a delay in polling. Even an ally of the ruling NDA – the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) – has called for postponing the Bihar assembly polls until the pandemic situation improves in the state. Reportedly, LJP chief Chirag Paswan has written a letter to the EC calling for deferring the elections in the statement and opposing virtual election campaign.
However, Nitish Kumar’s JDU (Janata Dal (United) is strongly pushing for election to take place in Bihar on time. He has held several interactions and meetings with party members and workers asking to prepare for Bihar polls and adopt new strategies for the election campaigning. On the other hand, BJP, which is secondary to JDU in the NDA in Bihar, has been neutral about the confusion over the timing of the polls, stating that it will follow the decision of the Election Commission.
At the same time, BJP launched its virtual campaign in Bihar in June itself with party president Amit Shah holding rallies on LED screens and smart TVs across various regions in the state. Meanwhile, RJD’s Tejashvi Yadav has been carrying out relief work in areas where flooding situation is grim and targeting the Nitish Kumar government for lack of efforts to protect the people.
Notedly, Nitish Kumar is facing serious anti-incumbency in the wake of the anger among the public over his mishandling of the two-tragedies in the state – flood and COVID-19. Amid these circumstances, virtual campaigning may prove advantageous for the Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission is yet to announce the schedule for Bihar assembly polls while administrative preparations have reportedly begun at various levels in the state. As of now, Bihar Assembly’s tenure will end on November 29.