Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
File Photo

On the last day of campaigning in the first phase of the assembly election in 71 constituencies, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was evidently clutching at straws. He decided to sign off with a personal attack on RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav, claiming the latter had no faith in his seven daughters and asked whether this was the ideal the electorate wanted to emulate.

Lalu and Rabri have nine children, seven of whom are daughters, but they seem to have no faith in their daughters and only kept promoting their sons, said Nitish Kumar.

He made these comments at Mahuva in Vaishali district, from where Lalu's elder son, Tej Pratap Yadav was elected to the state assembly in 2015.This time, Tej Pratap is standing from Hasanpur in Samastipur district.

The last-minute claim however, was not entirely baseless. So far, in this election, none of the Tejashwi and Tej Pratap Yadav's seven sisters have been visible on the campaign trail. Misa Bharti, Lalu and Rabri's eldest daughter had been active in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2015 assembly elections. But this time, the entire show has been hijacked by the youngest in the family --Tejashwi Prasad, who has been projected as the CM candidate against the incumbent, Nitish Kumar.

Nitish also attacked the RJD chief's family for "betraying" veteran leader and RJD vice-president, Raghuwansh Prasad Singh, as he lay dying in hospital.

Elections to 71 assembly seats, spread over 16 districts, mostly in the once-Maoist affected central Bihar, will be held on Wednesday. There are 1,066 candidates in the fray.This is the first mass electoral exercise to be undertaken during the pandemic in Asia.

In the 2015 assembly elections, the RJD won 27 seats, the JDU 18, the BJP 13 and CPI(ML) one and HAM(S) one each.

Those in the fray on Wednesday are the former chief minister and HAM(S) president Jiten Ram Manjhi, who faces former speaker and RJD candidate Uday Narain Chaudhry in Imamganj; Commonwealth gold medallist Shreyanshi Singh versus sitting RJD MLA Vijay Prakash; and Anant Singh, a jailed underworld element, is the RJD candidate battling Rajiv Lochan of the Congress. Eight cabinet colleagues of Niitish Kumar too are facing elections once again.

On the last day of the first phase of the poll campaign, the RLSP president and chief ministerial candidate of the Grand Democratic Secular Front, Upendra Kushwaha, announced there would be four deputy chief ministers in Bihar if he were to be elected CM. He said representatives of Muslims, Dalits, extremely backward castes and upper castes would be deputy CMs under him.

All the constituencies going to the polls on Wednesday are considered significant, as there have been caste and class clashes in all these districts, be it Bhojpur, Kaimur, Rohtas, Arwal,Nalanda, Aurangabad, Jahananabd, Gaya or Jamui. Towards the end of the 90s, massacres were common in these areas. Erstwhile Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had famously travelled to one such massacre hit village, Belchi, on an elephant, as there were no roads to the village.

The star campaigners in the first phase have been Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president J P Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, former chief minister of Jharkhand Raghuvar Das, Nitish Kumar, Tejaswhi Prasad Yadav. Corona too has cast its dark shadow in the run-up to this exercise, claiming the lives of two ministers.

Others afflicted include top BJP leaders like former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, BJP general secretaries Saudan Singh, Bhupinder Yadav and half-a-dozen members of Parliament. Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi is currently admitted to the corona ward of the AIIMS, along with the state's health minister Mangal Pandey and the former agriculture minister, Narendra Singh.

Three people, including a candidate, were gunned down during the pre-poll violence in Sheohar when campaigning was at its peak on Saturday night.

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Free Press Journal