Two key regional political parties, the ruling Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), and the Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) have started preparations for the assembly election in Bihar, which is still several months away.
The stakes are particularly high for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under chief minister Nitish Kumar because if the ruling alliance wins, the alliance between the JD(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will become the longest-serving state government of the NDA.
The Bihar polls, scheduled for October-November, will be one of the most significant state elections since the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and will be a key test for the BJP, which had lost the state in 2015. It is a do-or-die battle for JD(U) leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar, while it is the first assembly elections the RJD will contest in the absence of its chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. For the Congress, the Bihar polls are a test of survival.
For the first time, the JD(U) leadership has appointed booth managers across all 72,000 polling stations in the state. Earlier, BJP cadres were given the responsibility of managing polling booths for the alliance.
“Booth committees have been formed in all the constituencies for the first time. The step was taken so that JD(U) can get feedback of the state government’s performance from the people and also find out which seats or constituencies will be beneficial for the party to contest. This will also help the BJP and the cadre of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). This will only strengthen the NDA," said a senior JD(U) leader who is part of the election campaign.
The move by JD(U) to organize booth-level committees is also significant as a section of senior JD(U) leaders wants to contest more seats than the BJP in the 243-member assembly. During the Lok Sabha elections, the two parties had agreed upon sharing the seats equally.
Senior leaders also said that a two-day training programme for polling booth managers has been organized for 22-23 January in Rajgir. The exercise will be conducted by R.C.P. Singh, a bureaucrat-turned Rajya Sabha member, who was handpicked by Kumar to speak in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, or CAA, during the discussion in Parliament.
“For the first time in JD(U), we have completed formation of a panchayat-level organizational network. Earlier, JD(U) was mainly limited to a district-level organizational setup. Now we want to reach the grassroots, as it will help us get feedback on the government’s performance and programmes," the JD(U) leader said.
Political meetings will be organized by the party from February, he added.
The RJD also plans to have an extensive campaign under former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav, who is expected to start a yatra on 16 January, to raise two key issues—CAA being discriminatory to Muslims and Kumar’s ‘poor’ governance record.
“The details of the yatra are being worked out, but the idea is to cover all districts over the next few months. The yatra will begin from Seemanchal region, probably from Araria," said a senior RJD leader, involved in the campaign strategy, requesting anonymity.