Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said that 70% of the campaigning for the state Assembly polls will be done physically.
“There are three kinds of campaigning,” Modi said in an interview with the Hindustan Times, published on Wednesday. “The big rallies by hiring helicopters will no longer be there. The ones that attract 40,000-50,000 or 1 lakh crowds, will not be there.” He added that door-to-door campaigning proved to be the most effective as not all voters attend meetings.
The deputy chief minister cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rallies in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election and said that he held 30 meetings but the BJP won only 53 seats. He welcomed the Election Commission’s decision to hold polls in the state, saying that a democratic process cannot be stopped in view of the coronavirus pandemic as there was no specific timeframe of when it will go away.
“Polls have been conducted in 34 countries across the world,” he said. “So even though it will be very difficult, there is no other option but to conduct them.”
When asked about India’s high daily case figures and Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan’s call for deferring elections, the deputy chief minister said it was primarily the Election Commission’s decision and that Bihar was not in a state of panic. He asserted that the highest number of testing was done in his state and added that hospitals, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna were now empty after being filled with Covid-19 patients till August.
He further expressed confidence that the Lok Janshakti Party and the BJP will fight elections together. Paswan has emerged as a vocal critic of BJP’s coalition partner Janata Dal (United) for its handling of the coronavirus crisis among other matters. Paswan had also stated that he had not met JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar for over a year, fuelling speculations that the LJP will not contest with the JD(U) and the BJP. However, BJP chief JP Nadda had clarified on August 23 that the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar – comprising the JD(U), the LJP and the BJP – would fight the upcoming Assembly elections together with Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate.
On the Joint Entrance Examination being held amid the pandemic and the backlash it has faced, Modi said that it won’t affect the polls. “There is no problem in Bihar as the floods are in remote areas, but the [exam] centres are mostly in district headquarters,” he said. “Students preparing for exams are either in block or district headquarters and there is no problem in any of the blocks or districts.”
He further said that most of the students were happy with the decision of conducting the exams and that he has not seen a demonstration with more than 100 people, of whom most are political workers.
The deputy chief minister also criticised the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress in the state and said that they lack credibility as they don’t have a strong leadership. He also asserted that the NDA coalition in Bihar will win three-fourths majority in the polls.