US President Donald Trump featured as the mahagathbandhan – an alliance of opposition parties in Bihar led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress – launched its election manifesto today, with a focus on special category status for the state, providing 10 lakh (permanent) government jobs and repealing the controversial farm laws passed by the central government last month.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav – the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate – revealed the manifesto, which he described as “prann hamara sankalp sbadlav ka (our resolve to bring about change) – while taking swipes at the ruling JDU-BJP alliance and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s bid for re-election on the back of his “15 years of development” campaign.
“Nitish Kumar has been governing the state for the last 15 years but the state has not been accorded special category status yet. US President Donald Trump will not come and accord that,” Mr Yadav told reporters, adding that crime and unemployment had increased throughout the state.
“JDU-BJP has stabbed Bihar in the back,” the RJD leader declared, hitting out at Bihar’s “double-engine” government – a reference to BJP chief JP Nadda’s claim that the state was as safe with Nitish Kumar as India is with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modi hain to mumkin hain aur Nitish hain to sambhav hai (Modi, Nitish make it possible),” Mr Nadda said last week, in a riff on the BJP’s 2019 slogan hailing PM Modi.
The demand for special status for Bihar has been made frequently since Nitish Kumar came to power in 2005, and most recently in February this year.
At the manifesto launch today, Tejashwi said the people of Bihar had been angered by that lack of development and reiterated his claim that if he were voted to power he would provide 10 lakh government jobs at the first cabinet meeting.
“I am a pure Bihari. My DNA is pure. If we come to power we will give jobs to 10 lakh youth at the first cabinet meeting,” Mr Yadav said, describing unemployment as “the most important factor”.
Among the other promises made were that the administration would bear travel expenses of candidates attending qualifying exams for government jobs going to exam centres.
Twelve per cent of the state budget would be spent on education and every panchayat will have one doctor and nurse on duty, the manifesto also said.
The controversial farm laws – which have triggered protests across the country – also found mention, with Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala (who was at the manifesto’s launch) declaring that their government would repeal the laws if it came to power.
“If we form the government, under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav, we will pass a bill in the first Vidhan Sabha session to scrap the three anti-farm laws,” Mr Surjewala said, demanding that PM Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar answer to the state’s farmers for loss of MSP (minimum support price).
The RJD, the Congress, the CPI and CPM are among those part of the mahagathbandhan in Bihar. The RJD will contest 144 of the 243 seats up for election, with the Congress contesting 70 and Left parties getting 29 tickets.
The ruling JDU-BJP alliance has reached a 122-121 seat-sharing agreement, with Nitish Kumar’s party getting the majority. Chirag Paswan’s LJP, which is part of the BJP-led NDA at the centre, will contest these elections separately, it said earlier this month, triggering a stand-off between the BJP and the LJP that resulted in a stern warning from the bigger party.
Assembly elections in Bihar will be spread over three phases starting October 28. Results are due November 10.