PATNA: As several districts in Bihar reimposed lockdown restrictions following an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases, the BJP now finds the atmosphere for assembly elections unconducive.
In a major climbdown from his earlier a firm stand regarding the holding the assembly elections as per schedule in October-November, one of Bihar's senior-most BJP leaders as well as the state's Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi has now left the ball in the court of the Election Commission.
In a tweet that was revised within an hour Modi said, "Bihar assembly elections are three months away from now. It is difficult to predict the condition arising out of the coronavirus till then. It is the Election Commission which will assess the situation and take an appropriate decision. There should not be any political statement (speculation) on the preparations by the EC".
The NDA, he said, would abide by the decision of the Commission.
Till a couple of days ago, except for the LJP, the NDA comprising BJP and JDU had been firm on holding assembly elections on schedule and had been opposed to any idea of delaying it in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The LJP president, Chirag Paswan is in favour of extension of the schedule.
Now, the BJP is finding a very cold response to its virtual assembly constituency-wise rallies. Attendance in these rallies are very thin, and these is apprehension that the virtual rallies to be addressed by top national leaders may also have little attendance in closed down halls.
Even the virtual rallies are facing virus-related threats. In Munger and Motihari, BJP leaders who had attended the virtual rallies last week attracted coronavirus and were admitted to hospitals. 11 in Munger and in nine in Motihari from among those who attended the rallies were found to be COVID-19 positive and rushed to the hospital.
In Patna too, four members of the Deputy CM's office at the state secretariat have been infected with the virus, and have been to AIIMS - a dedicated COVID-19 hospital. Over 60 members of the security and personal staff of the chief minister have also been affected by the virus.
BJP spokesman Arwind Kumar Singh on Sunday announced he had tested positive and was admitted to a hospital. Eight legislators,two MPs and one minister is undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in AIIMS in Bihar.
Chairman of the Bihar Vidhan Parishad, Awadesh Narain Singh has also been admitted in AIIMS after contacting the virus.
RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav had been repeatedly demanding delay of the elections beyond November 29, when the current assembly's five year's term concludes. He has said that except for the BJP and the JDU, all other parties are in favour of the extension of the dates of the elections. The task of the Election Commission has become difficult, amid the virus outbreak, he had noted.
Prem Chandra Mishra, a senior Congress legislator too finds the atmosphere not conducive for the elections. He demanded the Election Commission hold an all party meeting on the issue. He reminded Chief Minister Nitish kumar about his earlier statement that it was the time to fight COVID-19 and not elections. The coronavirus situation is worsening daily in Bihar and officials are engaged in both fighting the virus, and in many districts, floods. Night curfew and a day-long lockdown has to be reimposed in 15 districts, Mishra said and expressed fear that the priority would change from the COVID-19 crisis to the elections.
The Congress leader said it would be difficult for the parties to face elections and the electorate in view of the alarming rise in cases.
Sushil Kumar Modi in his tweet commented, "Those students who are poor in their studies are always in search of excuses for avoiding examinations". Fearing its impending defeat, the RJD is finding an excuse and asking for delay in the elections, he alleged.
Former Union Finance Minister, Yahswant Sinha, who has launched a state wide tour for public interactions on Sunday regretted lockdown in several districts and said it was done to prevent him from meeting people. It is a political and not an administrative move to stop the opposition, he alleged.
Prashant Kishore,who was once an advisor to Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, too demanded rescheduling of the assembly elections in view of the pandemic. During the 2015 assembly elections, he had been the principal campaign manager of Nitish Kumar and had popularized the slogan "Abki Baar, Nitieshe (as the rural Bihari speak) Kumar", and it worked quite successfully.
Meanwhile, district magistrate of Bhagalpur, Pranav Kumar,who is also district election officer was rushed to AIIMS after he tested positive late on Saturday night.
Director of the premier medical institute and hospital=IGIMS,Dr N R Biswas,who was undergoing treatment for Corona in his own hospital for four days was also rushed to AIIMS when his condition deteriorated late last night.