Modi-led coalition wins India’s first regional poll since pandemic began

By Shubhomoy Chatterjee

Patna, India, Nov 11 (efe-epa).- India’s ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to power in the eastern state of Bihar, according to poll results on Wednesday, in what marked the first election in the country since the Covid-19 crisis erupted.

The Hindu right-wing National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 125 of the 243 seats in the legislative assembly, according to the Election Commission of India vote count that began on Tuesday.

The BJP alone got 74 seats, winning a fourth term in a row in Bihar, one of the poorest Indian states and the third-most populous.

“The determination and dedication with which all NDA workers worked with them is awe-inspiring. I congratulate the workers and express my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Bihar,” Modi tweeted.

The other major coalition partner, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) bagged 43 seats, a significant decline from its earlier tally of 71 seats.

“The closely fought elections give people more power as parties have to work to make a difference in the next elections, and nothing can be taken for granted,” political science teacher at Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University Prabhat Kumar told EFE.

“The sharp fall in Nitish Kumar’s seats can be a reflection on people’s discontent over the management of the covid crisis, especially the hardship and unemployment caused by the lockdown in Bihar which is anyways backward.”

The results were expected to be a verdict on the management of the coronavirus crisis by the NDA, which rules the state as well as the country, which has recorded more than 8.5 million Covid-19 cases, the second-highest in the world after the United States.

Against this backdrop, federal Home Minister Amit Shah, unarguably the second-most powerful leader in the NDA, said the result not only reflected the “faith of the poor, laborers, farmers and youth in the successful fight of the Modi government against coronavirus but is also a lesson for those who mislead the country.”

Senior BJP leader and Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi described the results as a “victory of good governance and development.”

On the other hand, the opposition’s grand alliance lost a tight race, bagging 110 seats.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerged as the single largest party in the house with 75 representatives, as it found much support from the people hard-hit by the pandemic.

In terms of vote share, the RJD topped with 23.1 percent followed by the BJP at 19.5 percent, the JD-U with 15.4 percent, and the rest at 18.8 percent.

The final results came in around midnight as the final announcement took longer than usual. The Election Commission has set up a larger number of polling booths for the polls, keeping in mind the Covid-19 crisis.

Voting was held in three phases from Oct.28 to Nov.7, as the commission also implemented social distancing and other preventive health measures such as wearing face shields and masks, temperature checks, use of hand sanitizers and gloves, among other things, to ensure that the electoral process went ahead smoothly.

Moreover, it had set aside a separate time slot during which Covid-19 patients could come in to vote with adequate safeguards.

At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, millions of laborers, mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, were forced to return home from bigger Indian cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, after factories closed and construction works stopped in the wake of Modi’s sudden announcement of the nationwide lockdown on March 25.

Many of the workers and their families walked hundreds of miles to reach home since public transportation was also suspended, triggering media speculations and exit poll findings that the BJP may lose the polls in Bihar, which send the fourth-highest number of lawmakers to the parliament.

However, Modi campaigned heavily in the state, which many experts say, may have reversed disappointments for the BJP in the state. EFE-EPA

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