The invocation of Ram Mandir by PM Narendra Modi during his election rallies in Bihar on Wednesday, even as the first phase of polling was in progress, indicates how desperately the BJP is clutching at straws. The temple lost its worth as a vote-catcher once the Supreme Court cleared the decks last year for its construction. It’s undoubtedly a non-issue in a state grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic and crippling job losses. No less irrelevant to Bihar is the abrogation of Article 370, which has been raked up by UP CM Yogi Adityanath and other party leaders in their recent speeches in the state. The fact that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, no less, promised free Covid-19 vaccine on priority for Bihar residents shows the BJP’s failure to gauge the massive impact of reverse migration, triggered by the nationwide lockdown.
Bihar was among the states that bore the brunt of the lockdown. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the state’s unemployment rate was a staggering 46 per cent in April-May this year. Though it fell to 11.9 per cent in September, still higher than the national figure of 6.7 per cent for the corresponding period, the CMIE has cautioned that such a drop is misleading as the labour participation rate and the employment rate are going down as well. The stark reality is that only one out of every three adult Biharis is employed.
Reviving livelihoods in a time-bound manner should take precedence over other matters. The promise made by the Mahagathbandhan’s CM face Tejashwi Yadav to sanction 10 lakh government jobs has prompted the BJP to announce — almost as an afterthought — the creation of 19 lakh employment opportunities. However, the party — which has shared power with the JD(U) for the past three years — needs to explain first why 4.5 lakh government jobs are still vacant in the state, as claimed by Tejashwi. The BJP doesn’t seem to have learnt much from the stinging losses in the pre-Covid polls in Delhi and Jharkhand, where local issues resonated with the voters.