The vote was seen as a test on the government’s management of the pandemic: Bihar is among the most affected states by Covid-19. Poverty has risen by 55% in the two-year period 2018-2019; with a 52.5% illiteracy rate. However, religion and the caste system remain priorities for population. The threat of religious hatred.
Patna (AsiaNews) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and his allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have won state elections in Bihar. The vote was seen by many as a test on the national and local governments’ management of the pandemic emergency.
Although Bihar is part of the nation's "Hindi heartland", the set of central-northern states where the Hindu nationalist base is concentrated, the BJP has never managed to win an election in this state without resorting to a coalition.
The NDA won 125 of the 243 seats in the State Assembly, beating the Grand Alliance, formed by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (the most voted party in the electoral round), Congress and other left-wing formations, which the polls had predicted as victors. The result will allow leader of Janata Dal (United), Nitish Kumar, to maintain the post of chief minister, which he has held since 2015.
With 104 million inhabitants, Bihar is the third most populous state in the Indian federation. It is also one of the poorest. According to the Niti Aayog government study center, in the two-year period 2018-2019 the local poverty rate grew by 55% with illiteracy at 52.5% (the highest level in the country), while the figures on infant mortality are frightening, linked above all to malnutrition and health problems.
Bihar has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far caused more than 220,000 infections and a thousand deaths. After the imposition of the national lockdown last March, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from this state were left without work and embarked on a long and dramatic journey to reach their villages of origin. Despite the chaotic handling of the health crisis, they voted overwhelmingly for the BJP-led coalition.
Some Indian experts spoke to AsiaNews, commenting that the election in Bihar reveals that the main concerns for the population remain religion and the caste system, not problems such as poverty, unemployment, inflation, malnutrition, lack of health care, the fight against Covid- 19 and corruption.
Fr. Prakash Louis, former director of the Jesuit Educational Association in Patna, shares this observation. He also fears that the new victory of the Hindu nationalist bloc could pose a threat to the Christian and Muslim minorities in Bihar. Many cases of religious hatred have occurred during Kumar's tenure, and the advance of the BJP could worsen the situation.