Nagpur, MAHARASHTRA – Last week, the ruling Janata Dal-United JD(U) Chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s “virtual rally” scheduled for August 7 was canceled, even as the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi addressed his first such event in the run-up to the Bihar’s elections scheduled for November this year.
But as Bihar’s COVID-19 cases continue to spike, the state’s political parties appear less and less keen on a year-end electoral showdown. The state has over 75,000 COVID-19 cases despite one of the lowest testing rates in the country; and the term of the Bihar state assembly ends on November 29 this year.
Till last month, the JD(U) had openly pushed for the elections to be held on time, a position shared by its alliance partner the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The ruling alliance’s position was understandable, given the visible disarray in the opposition.
At an all-party meeting in June, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) was the only party that raised concerns about holding an election in November.
“I don’t think there will be a situation to conduct an election. I seriously doubt if the elections will happen,” RJD vice president Shivanand Tiwari told HuffPost India in July. “If there is an election using virtual means, the JDU and BJP are likely to benefit because they have the resources and government machinery.”
Tiwari’s fears were not unfounded, given the BJP’s fearsome online propaganda machinery of trolls and fake news websites, and the party’s near stranglehold on the national, and local media.
“If there is an election it should be conducted traditionally then not virtually,” Tiwari had said.
Now, even members of the JDU have privately admitted that they are preparing for a delayed election. A November election is likely to have very low turnout — and it is anyone’s guess if a low turnout will suit the ruling alliance and its well-funded election operation, or voters energized by the prospect...