Nitish faces flak for poll plans amid Covid-19
Opponents and allies have cornered Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal United (JDU) president Nitish Kumar over his poll plans amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.
They are urging him to pay attention to saving people’s lives instead of preparing for the state elections, which could be held around October–November this year as the term of the present Legislative Assembly is ending on November 29.
Poll consultant and former JDU vice-president Prashant Kishor is the latest on the block to take a swipe at Nitish over his eagerness to prepare for the polls.
“The corona situation in Bihar is worsening just like many other states in the country, but a large portion of the government machinery and resources is busy in making preparations for the polls. Nitish Kumarji, this is a time to fight corona, not elections. Please do not endanger the lives of people in the haste to conduct polls,” Prashant tweeted on Saturday.
Prashant, who turned a critic of Nitish during the countrywide agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Register of Citizens and National Population Register and was expelled from the JDU, joined opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav in suggesting that the polls should be deferred.
Tejashwi had been constantly attacking Nitish and the JDU for focusing on the Assembly elections instead of making arrangements to tackle coronavirus cases.
“I will be the last person to have an election on dead bodies. If Nitish Kumar acknowledges that there is a crisis due to coronavirus, elections could be postponed till the situation improves. The abject failure of the Nitish government in handling the pandemic has led to chaos and insecurity among the people,” Tejashwi said on Friday evening.
The RJD leader is also advocating the traditional means of electioneering and voting instead of digital rallies and postal ballots for people above 65 and those staying in containment zones.
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner and Nitish’s ally Lok Janshakti Party has also joined the issue by appealing to the Election Commission to consider the risk to voters if elections are conducted during the pandemic.
“The EC should carefully think and decide, else a large section of the population could be endangered because of the elections. Holding elections in the middle of a pandemic may also lead to a sharp drop in the polling percentage, which would not be a good thing for democracy,” LJP national president Chirag Paswan said.
Chirag, a Lok Sabha member from Jamui constituency, also pointed out that the polls will additionally put a strain on the finances at a time the common man, the Centre and the state government have been economically impacted by the pandemic.
However, JDU and ally BJP are going ahead with their organisational meetings in view of the elections and are also holding e-rallies via social media platforms.
While senior BJP leader and Union home minister Amit Shah kicked off such rallies for Bihar in June, Nitish is expected to address a virtual rally on August 7. No leader from these two ruling parties in Bihar has opposed holding polls during the raging pandemic.
“Holding elections within the stipulated time frame is a constitutional responsibility. It is the prerogative of the EC to decide on how to conduct it. The way Tejashwi is speaking, it seems he has become a medical expert. On the one hand he is opposing polls on time, and on the other he is holding party meetings to prepare for it,” information and public relations minister and JDU leader Neeraj Kumar told reporters on Saturday.