File image: JD(U) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Political parties have started analysing the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on voting percentages in the upcoming Bihar assembly elections and believed that polling in these times could see a drop in voting percentages due to the fear of the coronavirus infection.
The assembly elections in Bihar are likely to be held on time in October-November despite demands by some political parties for postponing the polls in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These elections are being seen as the next big political fight between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and a combined opposition force.
As indication grows about holding of the Bihar polls on the scheduled time, a section of Opposition leaders claim that this could be to their benefit, reported The Indian Express.
According to the report, a senior leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) said the party’s reading said the dip in voting percentage is likely to harm the BJP and benefit the RJD-led Opposition alliance.
“The fear of COVID-19 is highest in urban areas, and among the rich and the affluent. Urban areas are where BJP is the strongest. The party claims to have the vote of upper-castes and Baniyas, communities that are by and large well to do. Many of these people may feel that it is too much of a risk to stand in queue with so many others to vote,” the RJD leader told the publication.
Meanwhile, the Janata Dal (United) is confident of retaining power in the state. A senior JD(U) leader, who is a state minister, told the publication that the issue is “something we have to look at and consider”, but remained confident that the “weight of the caste arithmetic and the face of Nitish Kumar” make these conversations irrelevant.
There are three big players in Bihar, and when two of them are together, it is almost impossible for any other government to be formed, the JD(U) leader was quoted as saying.
“Internally we are talking about these voting patterns, and we will have to consider them, but the alliance (NDA) also has the support of other sections: the SCs, EBC, and OBCs. If the wealthy BJP voter does not go to vote, will the healthy Yadav go to vote?” the JD(U) leader said in the report.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Modi also told the publication that only 11 percent of Bihar’s population is urbanised while admitting there could be a dip in some urban pockets.
However, Modi added that there is “still at least two months' time” and the “panic” seen in the previous months is now dissipating gradually, the report stated.
In the 2015 polls, the Congress had won 27 out of the 41 seats it contested, while the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance secured 178 seats in the 243-member assembly. The RJD had emerged the leader of the pack with 80 seats while JD(U) bagged 71, both of whom had contested 101 seats each.
While Nitish Kumar became chief minister of the grand alliance government after the 2015 polls, he and his party later switched sides to join the NDA in 2017.
The term of the Bihar assembly comes to an end on November 29.